Monday, December 29, 2008

Dog tired

This is what Hannah and Holly do most days---only usually they are stretched out flat, sleeping after a night of patrolling and, lately, barking. (It's difficult to sneak up on them to take their pictures when they are sleeping. They always wake up.) The past several nights it seems as though they have barked all night and have been unusually close to our bedroom windows. Most nights I don't really hear them, or if I do, I'm able to go back to sleep. In a way, it is very comforting to hear them doing their job. I don't know if it's because I'm tired from the holidays or what, but I haven't been able to tune them out the last two nights. I'm more conscious of the barking when we have house guests, as we have lately, because I worry that it is bothersome to them (though almost without exception, everyone says they don't hear the dogs). I'm never able to nap during the day (I just can't fall asleep, unless I'm sick), but I sure wish I could have today. Maybe we all just need to get back into our "normal" routines around here.

I've been thinking today about whether to make any resolutions for the new year. In a way, it seems futile to think of making major changes in my life. Honestly, there aren't any drastic changes I would want to make. I just finished reading a book (and not a very good one) about a woman who gave up a different thing for one month for a year. Not a lot of it could be applied to my life. She gave up taxis one month, cursing for one month, coffee, television, get the picture. The thing that should apply to me was the discipline it took to do that. I need that. Order, organization, simplification-those are the goals to set for myself in 2009 and I want to be a more positive and thoughtful person. To accomplish any of those goals, discipline is needed, so maybe the only resolution I need to make is to be more disciplined. Are you making specific resolutions or setting goals for yourself? I'd love to hear what you're thinking.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Is it over?

The last few days (or weeks, actually) have been somewhat of a blur and this evening marks the end of all the official celebrating and the beginning of my sit down, relax and get back to my knitting time. We've had family here from near and far and a good chance to catch up with the goings on of everyone. Every holiday I struggle with being able to relax and enjoy instead of stress and agonize. I keep thinking if I can just get better organized, it will go easier. And it does, mostly, but I'm a long way from where I want to be. Maybe, (I always think) I'll have it all together next year. Guess it's good to be optimistic.

One of the best things to happen in the last few days was a hike my husband and I took on Christmas afternoon. We decided to hike down to the creek that runs from the back of our farm and it was such a reminder of all the good things about where we live and how lucky we are to live here. We can walk out our back door and in 5 minutes be in a totally different world. Why we don't take the time to do it more often is beyond me. One of the things about living on a farm is that the list of chores never ends. There is always some task we could be working on and the challenge is to take time to enjoy our life, without becoming completely worn out by it. I'll confess that I had to be persuaded to go along yesterday because I thought I had too much to do to get ready for the family get-together today. Once we were down in the creek, all the to-do lists just floated out of my head. It was a wonderful little stretch of breathing space.

I'm confused about what day of the week it will be in the morning, but I really don't think it matters. My plan for tomorrow is to feed my animals and knit---period!

I hope you all had just the Christmas you were wishing for this year!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We're having a snow day!

It actually came! The snow actually came as predicted last night. Also, some sleet and freezing rain, which we could have done without. Feeding time at the barn this morning was pretty funny. For my "teenage" sheep (see previous post), it was their first glimpse of the white stuff and they were clearly baffled, as was Pippi. They quickly got over the shock and starting running in circles, kicking up their heels and jumping in the air. Wish I had been able to capture it for you to see. Then, as usual, their main concern was when breakfast was coming.

My husband stayed home today because our farm road is treacherous in this kind of weather. It is one quarter of a mile long, down a hill, across the creek and up a hill on the other side. If you happen to slide off the road, it could be a while before you came to a stop. When I walked out this afternoon to get the paper and the mail, I could see lots of little rabbit prints and a few deer tracks, but otherwise, not much had been stirring.

I made butternut squash soup for dinner tonight, using squash from the garden. I found the recipe a few months ago when I was in the throes of purging my magazine collection. It was in an old Organic Style (no longer published) and is definitely a keeper. I also made that oatmeal whole wheat bread yet again. It has become a real favorite around here. It's easy to whip up on short notice and is great warm from the oven and then toasted for breakfast the next day.
Butternut Squash Soup-serves six

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, coarsely chopped

1 Tbsp honey

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cut into 1 inch cubes

6-8 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup heavy cream (they say optional, I say required!)

salt & pepper to taste

1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over med. heat. Add the onion and cook until it starts to turn golden, about 5-10 minutes

2. Add the honey and cook until it bubbles

3. Add the squash and 6 cups of the stock to saucepan. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Cook until the squash is very tender, about 30 minutes, adding more liquid as needed. Remove pan from heat and cool for 15 minutes

4. In blender, puree a few cups of soup at a time. Strain for a smooth soup. **I use my stick blender for this and do it right in the pan**

5. Return soup to the pan. Add cream, salt & pepper. Heat until very hot, but not boiling

In a way, I needed this day to ratchet down some of the pressure I'm starting to feel about not being ready for Christmas. On the other hand, you could say it's been another excuse for procrastinating a little longer. In any case, my "snow day" is coming to an end and tomorrow means back to the real world.

ps-I had the name of the magazine wrong. It is Organic Style and not Organic Life and in a strange sort of coincidence, Susie Quick, the woman I've been sharing some Saturday Market time in Midway with, was the food editor of that magazine. I never cease to be amazed at how small the world really is!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Orange bottom special

(Title courtesy of my friend, Kim.) Kim came out Sunday afternoon to take some pictures of a few of my girls and they were not as cooperative as I had hoped they would be. Kim is knitting a striped hat for her nephew with wool from several members of my flock and she likes to send along a picture of the animal(s) who produced the fiber. Her nephew is 7 or 8 years old and he likes knowing where things come from. Don't you think that is so great? Last year, another friend, Sara, was the shepherd who raised the contributing sheep for the Christmas hat (Beanie Baby-such a cute name!). Apparently, the nephew was so proud he took his hat and a picture of Beanie Baby to show-and-tell sessions at school and church. Don't we wish we could all knit up a gift that would be so well received?

Sunday was dry, windy and quite warm (upper 50's). The ewes were way up in the top of a field and completely out of sight. I had hoped to just call them in, but the wind was gusting strongly--the wrong way. I can yell really loud, but they couldn't hear me, so we walked up to get their attention. Sure enough, when they saw us, they were pretty sure treats were on the way. I had a bucket of grain with me and it nearly caused a stampede. Of course, once the grain was gone, they were ready to turn their attention elsewhere. Most of these girls were among the last lambs born before the yarn shop opened and they didn't get much hands on time from me. Out of all of them, Pauladeen was the one who came when called and was happy to follow me around. She died during the summer and the rest of these girls are a bit of a hard sell for socializing. This year's lambs are a completely different story. (Remember all those bottle babies back in the spring?) Those ewe lambs are in what I call the "teenage phase". They are just plain silly sometimes--flighty, goofy and so much fun! They hang around me all the time and are always looking for a scratch under the chin or behind their ears. I have to admit, I love that.

Saturday I spent the day in Midway, which is a wonderful village here in Woodford county. It was the day of their Christmas Open House and all the shops were decked out for Christmas. I set up my little display in the Honest Farm Market and was pleasantly surprised to sell quite a few of my hand knitted mittens, hats and Christmas ornaments. If I can manage to get a few more knitted this week, I may go back next Saturday. Susie, who owns the Honest Farm Market, had wonderful baked goods and beautiful arrangements of greenery and holly. It was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon and I managed to get in some knitting time, too. My impression was that people were looking for smaller and more personal gifts this year. I know the economy is in a worrisome state, but I think it would be a good thing if we could all think smaller and more personal, not just this year, but always.

We have a winter storm warning on for this afternoon and tonight and I am so happy about it. I'm off to the grocery right now to get cookie making supplies. The annual Christmas baking marathon is about to commence!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The state in which I live.....

That would be in the state of denial. The whole time I was knitting the right front of this vest, I would stop and look at it and think to myself, "well, the pooling is just barely noticeable. I'll just keep going and when it's all put together, no one will even see it". Oh, the lies we tell ourselves (or maybe it's just me who does that). Right up until the moment I looked at the picture I had taken, I had convinced myself I could get away with leaving it. I've ignored it for several weeks now and it still has not corrected itself. Sometime after Christmas this thing gets a do-over. I love the yarn. It's one of the Briar Rose skeins I bought at Knitter's Connection, in Columbus, back in June. The vest pattern is really cute and easy and fast (if you don't mess it up so that you have to make it twice). It's from Rowan's Colourscape Chunky Collection. The pattern calls for Colourscape Chunky yarn by Kaffe Fassett which is lovely, but rather expensive at $23.95 per skein and the smallest size calls for 4 skeins.

One small success story is this purse. I knitted and felted it many, many months ago. Finally got the handles and closure flap sewn on a while back and will hopefully finish the lining this week. The pattern for the purse is from the Pursenalities book. The fabulous leather handles were purchased two summers ago in Napa Valley at a knit store in St. Helena, Muse. (I have seen them advertised in some knitting magazines.) I bought two pair even though at the time I had no idea what I'd use them on. The yarn I used is some of my own handspun, hand dyed, plus some handspun natural colored charcoal gray for the bottom and trim around the closure flap. I'm not sure about the button at this point. It's not really necessary because there will be a magnetic closure under the flap. I'm pleased with the way this turned out and think I will actually use it a lot.

The Christmas knitting is not going so well this week. Revisions are under way.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Crafty weekend

Thanks, Kristin, for the great crafting idea! Two of my grandsons were here over the weekend and we spent a lot of Saturday building our own versions of Kristin's birch bark houses. We don't have birch trees around here, so after some thought, we went down to the creek and searched until we found enough sycamore tree bark to do the job. If I had been planning ahead a little better, we could have found it easier before the snow covered the ground, but we managed to find enough to see us through the first round of this fun project. Ours are pretty rustic compared to Kristin's, but maybe are more suggestive of a Kentucky cabin in the woods. One thing I discovered about crafting with a 13 year old and a 10 year old---someone in the group had a real love of the hot gun glue! (Next time I need to buy way more glue sticks.) These are what we ended up with and I'm ready to make more, if I can squeeze in the time. These next few weeks are going to be pretty hectic around here.

If you have a few hours and are feeling creative, give these little houses a try. One of the best parts is taking a walk outside and trying to think of ways to use all the supplies nature is providing at this time of year. I'm thinking I want to make a village now and my husband has suggested a "model" of our own farmhouse. Not so sure I'm ready to tackle that one yet, but I do think I see a barn taking shape.

ps-sorry about the weird layout. Blogger and I cannot agree on picture placement this morning and, so far, Blogger is winning!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

In the company of friends

Last night we went to friends' house to watch the Kentucky basketball game (while I was knitting, of course). Their cat, "Doc", loves my husband (who is his veterinarian). So the picture shows Doc and the Doc spending quality time together. My husband has a house-call practice and sees all his patients in their own homes (unless he is doing surgery-in which case they go to the clinic where he does his surgeries). I think it is a good sign that his patients like him even after he gives them shots, or as in Doc's case, shaves a big patch off their backside.

Speaking of patients, here's one waiting his turn (though he doesn't know it yet). Buddy is wondering where all the girls have gone! His work is finished in that department. I separated him from the ewes last weekend and he is not very happy about it. He's in the pasture with Strawberry, Pippi and Big Boy for the moment. They are pretty much ignoring him and he is busy pacing the fence, gazing longingly at the ewes. Our plan is to make a wether out of him (same as gelding a horse) and after a few weeks and the testosterone has gotten out of his system, he can go back in with the big girls or the little girls. He has bred the adult ewes and is related to all the ewe lambs, so that is the end of his career as a ram. He's such a nice boy and has a gorgeous fleece, so he's getting to stay (even if it is in an "altered" state).

Be sure to check out Kristin Nicholas' blog post today. She has a great Christmas craft tutorial for making really cute little birch bark houses. I'm inspired to round up the supplies tomorrow and try this with two of my grandsons, who will be here for the weekend. They love this kind of thing and since it is going to be cold (in the 20's) the whole time they are here, it will be fun to have this project on the to-do list. We might even fit some Christmas baking in there, too.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Uninvited guests

We've had a problem with uninvited guests since a few days before Thanksgiving. These folks just started showing up early in the evening and then they just help themselves to food meant for others. Thankfully, they did not come by on Thanksgiving. I guess the fact that there were so many cars parked in the drive was a little intimidating. Thank goodness. Well, they haven't actually come inside and made a place for themselves at the table, but nevertheless, this is a difficult and uncomfortable situation and we are just not sure how to go about solving the problem. These folks have a pay-back technique that leaves a lasting impression!

Sorry, I just couldn't help messing with you a little bit. That's just one of our uninvited guests grazing beneath the bird feeders. I feed black oiler sunflower seeds to the birds and I guess the skunks really like it too. There are at least two of them that have been showing up and staying for an hour or more nearly every evening. This is not a good thing. It is a miracle that I haven't accidentally walked too close to them. I often go to the barn after dark and sometimes don't remember to fill the bird feeders until late. Needless to say, this is a delicate situation and I'm afraid the eventual outcome is not going to be favorable to the skunks. They are kinda cute, but not cute enough to risk my being rendered unfit for the company of others through the holidays.

Thanksgiving was great. Way too much food, a house full of relatives and then the usual collapse on the couch in front of the fire. Now, Christmas is coming at a gallop. Thanksgiving was later than usual this year and now it is just a little over 3 weeks until Christmas day. The Christmas knitting list may undergo some revision if I don't get really busy this week. Which seems to me a perfectly good reason to build a fire and settle on the couch to watch "A Christmas Story" (for about the 50th time, but I never get tired of it) and put in some quality knitting time.