Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Einstein-ing along

Teresa and I are moving right along on our Einstein Coat knit-along. The dark blue knitting in the picture is hers and the black is mine. (Sally Melville, the designer, was one of the instructors we took a workshop with at the Knitter's Connection last month. She was a great teacher and it was inspiring to see and touch all the design samples from her books.) We got together earlier this week and moved from the everlasting knitting on the bottom section, to the moving-along-much-faster upper right front! It's possible we might have these done before the snow flies here in Kentucky (which seems like a very long way off from today, since it is in the 90's now).

I have heard there are actually people who do not like garter stitch----what's with that? I love it and already have several more garter stitch items in the queue. The Baby Surprise Jacket is already on the needles and maybe an adult version will be next. Also, the Shepherd's Jacket pattern from Peace Fleece has been waiting for a long time to become part of my wardrobe. I have always loved that jacket and last winter when I was still in the yarn store business, a customer came in wearing one she had knitted many, many years ago. It reminded me to be thinking about yarns I might already have in the stash that could be used for it.

I've been thinking about Christmas knitting, too. In fact, there are a few gifts already on the needles. Do I seem to be using the phrase "on the needles" a lot? I would be mortified if anyone had an accurate count of just how many projects on the needles are stashed away. I don't even know how many, but it's a lot! I am making an effort to finish things these least one finished object for any new one that I cast on. I know that only amounts to maintaining the status quo, but as the calendar gets closer to the holidays, I will step up the finishing business. (Please allow me this delusion for a few more months.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Porch knitting

Lately, I've been getting together once a week with friends to spend the afternoon on a breezy porch knitting, talking and laughing. Could there be any better way to spend a summer afternoon? I sure don't think so. We usually start by having "show and tell" because we all like to share progress on our current project(s). Next comes confessional time---new books and/or yarn purchases..........not that this is part of any planned agenda. This get-together has just evolved into it's own little routine. And it's amazing how quickly those few hours slip by and how much knitting can be accomplished when you are enjoying the company of like-minded friends. Many months ago, my friend, Teresa, and I started a two person "knit-along" for the "Einstein Coat". Let's just say I lost momentum after knitting back and forth, back and forth, over and over again. Mine has been languishing, out of sight and out of mind, until last week, I realized that she was nearly finished with the bottom part of her coat, and ready for the next step. So, I got in on mine again and worked to catch up. At last week's porch knitting session, I got a lot of knitting done and the time just flew by. The "Einstein Coat" is the perfect project for knitting and talking at the same time, because the whole thing is long stretches of garter stitch. I, for one, am not capable of knitting any lace project in the presence of others. My brain simply can't count out a lace pattern and carry on a conversation at the same time without a train wreck happening. Believe me, I know this from experience! So, I stick to socks, plain stockinette, garter stitch, and maybe, if I'm feeling brave, something with a simple cable or mitered pattern.
You've got to love an activity that is useful, productive, creative and can be enjoyed in solitude or while socializing. Why there are women (and men) still out there who haven't discovered the joy of knitting, is beyond my comprehension.

And speaking of men knitting----two of my grandsons were here over the weekend and actually requested a knitting lesson! Can it get any better than that? Do I have a future brooklyntweed in my family? I can only hope!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Baby of mine

Well, here is one of my little lambs, with her head in a bucket and food on her face. Isn't she cute? This is Teeny (formerly known as Bitty Baby), one of a set of triplets (Teeny, Tiny and Mo). Teeny barely made it through the birthing process. It took me forever to get her to breathe on her own and then she required tube feeding the first few days and was one of the last ones to come off the bottle, just a few weeks ago. My husband, ever practical, says she will never amount to much and I should not keep her, but it's too late. She's completely won me over with her quirky personality. The reason she is having her breakfast outside the pen, with no competition, is that she's still so small she can't really reach the feeders and gets shoved around by the rest of the lambs when they are eating. Teeny knows the drill now and comes to stand at the gate to be let out into the barn aisle for a private dining experience. Once she finishes her grain, she trots over to the dog's water bucket, helps herself to a drink and has a little look around the barn before she is ready to go back in with the rest of the gang. I know engaging in this kind of behavior indicates I'm not a "real" farmer, but having a few special characters around makes it all so much more fun.

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's a jungle out there

Way back (2 whole months) when I was planting the garden, everything looked so nice and tidy, if a little sparse. I always think I need to keep putting out plants or adding more seeds to help things fill in more. Above is how it looked back then......... and this is what it looks like now. Big difference, don't you think? After getting a rough start (mostly because Mr. Dandy kept picking off all the leaves), everything is growing like crazy now. I'm so glad I was able to put out a big garden this year. I heard on NPR this evening that food prices are going up again, because of fuel prices. Mainly, though, I just love the idea of growing so much of what we eat and being able pick it moments before I cook it. We had the first corn and green beans last night and finally the tomatoes are ripening. Naturally, zucchini and cucumbers are already getting ahead of me. I see pickle making in my future! And, if you live within 50 miles of me, don't be surprised if a bag full of zucchini mysteriously shows up outside your door!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Nothing healthy about this--but, it's good!

Warning: There will be no discussion of healthy eating within this post.

You know it's summer in Kentucky when the blackberries are ripe. When we moved to the country, we had an abundance of wild blackberry brambles along the farm lane and at the edge of the woods in some of the back parts of the farm. Gradually, because we have cleaned up overgrown fence rows and tried to get rid of the dreaded Korean honeysuckle vines and multi-flora roses, the blackberries have disappeared. We did plant some blackberries at the edge of the garden several years ago and they have turned into the bane of my existence. Not one berry have they produced. All the energy in those plants has gone toward creeping all over my garden and even out into the yard. A few months ago, when I was digging out the paths in the garden, I pulled up massive amounts of roots running all over the place. Cutting and pulling up roots amounted to pruning (and you know how pruning encourages a plant to put out lots of new growth?). I finally broke down and started spraying with brush killer anytime a sprout poked through the soil. I think I'm winning the war right now, but it is definitely not over by any means.

Not long ago, one of my husband's clients gave him some starts of thornless blackberry canes. Now, I know there are purist out there who think they don't taste as good as the wild ones. Whatever they give up in taste, it's worth it. Picking berries in the brambles in July, wearing long sleeves and pants to protect yourself from the thorns (not to mention the chiggers!). Never more. Even though they are just recently planted, over the past few days we've managed to pick, from the new, improved vines, the requisite 4 cups of berries for a cobbler. It's pretty safe to say this might be my husband's all time favorite dessert. There is nothing healthy about this recipe. Most likely, everyone has made some version of this. It's so quick and easy and fool proof.


Melt one stick of butter (yes, I know, but I warned you) in a 2 1/2 quart Pyrex or Corningware casserole dish in a 400 degree oven, til bubbly. Meanwhile, whisk together 1 cup of self-rising flour, 3/4 cup of sugar and 1 cup of milk. Rinse berries and drain, then heat in sauce pan with just enough sugar to sweeten slightly. When the butter is melted, pour the batter into the dish, then ladle the berries (and liquid from the pan) on top. Bake for approximately 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Serve warm, with good vanilla ice cream on top. (That's a recipe that makes me feel like Paula Deen---you know, butter, sugar and ice cream to top it off!) Enjoy and be grateful blackberry season is short. (It's also really good made with cherries.)
PS-My friend, Mary, tells me this took a little longer to bake than I had said. I forgot to mention that I used the convection/bake setting on my oven and that usually shortens baking times. may take a little longer for you. You'll know it is done when the top is golden brown--somewhere between 20-30 minutes.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Not to be confused with Purple Martians

No, that's not what you're seeing (but, I'm sure you already knew that). These are Purple Martins, in their little house, high in the sky overlooking my garden. I gave this Martin house to my husband for Valentine's day several years ago, and I only wish all presents could be used and appreciated as much as this one has been. We have been told that many people put up their Martin house and then wait years for Martins to move in, but somehow, we got lucky and they came within weeks of installation. We mark on the calendar each year when the scouts appear and then when the rest of the birds show up. Their timing is remarkable. They fly all the way from South America and arrive within just a few days of the years before. Apparently, the same families return, year after year, to the place of their birth and as new babies are hatched, the cycle continues. The Martins are very entertaining to watch and knowing they are keeping the bug population down is definitely a plus. They love it when we are mowing the fields close to their house because it stirs up the bugs and provides a meal for them. They circle around us, chattering and chirping all the while. Whenever I'm working in the garden, they are there to keep me company. They are some of the few creatures here on the farm who ask nothing from us but a cozy house. I suppose all this makes us sound like a couple of old folks out watching the birds. Oh well, so be it.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Made in the shade

We are all just trying to lay low and keep cool around here. This is Strawberry(the llama) and Holly(the Pyrenees puppy), hanging out with the sheep under the shade trees along the fence in the big pasture. It is 92 degrees according to my thermometer and there is not much in the way of activity happening right now. When it gets this hot, everyone sleeps away the day and, then, grazes all night. Who says sheep are dumb?
As you can see, Holly is the girl on the job. I'm almost afraid to brag, but she is turning into a wonderful guardian animal. Her instincts are great (except for that unfortunate incident with the baby chick). She seems to have the right stuff to protect the sheep from the coyotes and is a positive addition to farm life around here. I can't help thinking that we have been too lucky to have a puppy just show up and volunteer to work! Where's the catch?
And, how about this for a surprise? I went to the barn this afternoon and found Mrs. Dandy walking around with four baby peafowl chicks! We knew she was on the nest high up in the barn loft with yet another clutch of eggs, but assumed this would turn out like all the other failed attempts. We thought it most likely the eggs were not even fertile because Mr. Dandy has been confined for about a month now after being found guilty of pulling the leaves off the squash plants in the garden! Even more surprising----she managed to get the four chicks down from the hayloft without anyone ending up smashed flat in the barn aisle! We have no idea how this was accomplished. Our dilemma now is whether we should try to catch the chicks and put them in a pen where they will be safe from predators, or leave Mrs. Dandy in charge. It seems cruel to take them away from her after all she has done to hatch them, but even more cruel to let them get picked off by a raccoon or hawk or whatever just happens to see the little morsels toddling around. I never can predict what life or death decisions will need to be made on any given day.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Garden dinner

So hard to come back to "normal" (whatever that might be) Monday after having a three day weekend and nearly perfect weather. Last night was our first dinner this season to come almost exclusively fresh from the garden. It is still just a little early yet, because the tomatoes and corn are not quite ripe. I decided to roast the vegetables in the oven, a la Ina Garten, with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper. They turned out even better than I had hoped. I made cornbread sticks (from the Shakertown at Pleasant Hill cookbook), sliced up some cucumbers and that was it. Pretty simple and we felt so healthy eating this way! We have cut down drastically on the amount of meat we consume these days. We both still like it, just feel we should make an effort to eat lighter and fresher, especially at this time of year when there is so much good produce available from our own garden. We grew the zucchini, yukon gold potatoes and cucumber and the green beans and yellow squash came from two grandson's garden. Though they live in town, they are raising an unbelievable garden and have enough extra vegetables to sell to their neighbors. Quite the entrepreneurs, they even give out free recipes for customers to use with their produce. At 9 and 12 years of age, I'd say they are well on their way to success in whatever they choose to do.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Mother and child reunion(or stupid farm tricks)

Well, here is the happy family all together again. Last Sunday we spent hours sorting the sheep. We separated the lambs from the ewes, then looked at all of them, graded their fleeces and made the decision about which ones to send to market. Then we fastened the lambs in the barn and put the ewes out in the farthest pasture. Weaning is an unhappy time for everyone concerned. The lambs cry and the ewes keep calling to their lambs. We prevent the lambs from hearing their mothers by turning on a huge fan that makes lots of noise and a loud radio. Usually, I turn on a country music station, but that gets on my nerves pretty quickly, so this year the lambs were weaned to classical music. In about two days things start to quiet down and the lambs are eating well. Our plan was to take lambs to market on Tuesday and I did check the website to be sure there was a sale. It said no cattle sale and that as of July 1st all sheep and goats must have their scrapie tags in place before they are allowed off the trailer. That would make you think there is a lamb sale on July 1st---right? Wrong! We got up early, loaded the animals, drove in to the stockyard, and guess what? No one there. Closed. No sale of anything. Next sale in two weeks. Back home and unload everyone. Now what? I didn't want to keep the lambs in the barn for two weeks and if I let them out, all the bawling would start all over again when they saw their mothers. So, yesterday morning I opened their pen and led them to their mothers. They were all so happy, I felt bad all over again about weaning them.That Paul Simon song Mother and Child Reunion has been playing over and over in my head since then! So, now we will go through the whole song and dance again in two weeks.

This process is one of the harsh realities of farm life and raising livestock. I can't keep all of the males and selling them often pays for a year's worth of feed for the rest of the flock. I'm not enthusiastic about it, but I am resigned to it.

And, yes, those are all her lambs. Two black ram lambs and one white ewe lamb and none of them required supplemental bottles. I'd say she represented herself pretty well this year.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Everyone loves Kaffe

Don't they? I love his sense of color and pattern. I have all of his books and, though I have never made anything from them, I go to them often for color inspiration. It was exciting to see he had designed a line of sock yarn for Regia. This is #4255 Landscape Earth and I really like the way it turned out. This is your basic cast on 60 stitches sock pattern. Nothing fancy, except the yarn. There are colors in this mix I would have never have chosen, but they work so well together. I suppose that would be the reason Kaffe Fassett is a famous designer and I am not!

I think this particular color combination would work for a man or woman, but, guess what? They're all mine!

Couldn't resist this shot with Buster checking out the socks. Buster is my 15 year old cat, who nearly died on us about 3 months ago. After several weeks of intensive TLC (including having to force-feed him 3 times a day and give IV fluids twice a day), he seems to be feeling like his old self again. So good to have the veterinarian living in-house!