Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sheep Make The Perfect Anniversary Gift

Yesterday was our 16th wedding anniversary. Looking back,time has certainly flown by.It seems like only yesterday we were just starting our life together. We have had our share of hell and back,but thankfully it has made our union stronger.

We always like to do something,just the two of us (this year,Richie was included,of course!). It so happened that we arranged to pick out our sheep on this day. We then figured we'd go to lunch,then take a nice drive through Sandwich,which is lovely little town north west of us.

Our first stop was at Colonial Acres Farm in Wakefield for 10:00 to pick out the sheep we wanted. Priscilla kept the ones that she is selling separate from the rest of her herd so we could get a good look at them. She had one white,and four black (three of were triplets). I wanted a white one so I could practice dyeing the wool,so that choice was easy. She was pretty,had a good body and was healthy.

Priscilla had just had these sheep sheared,and she had the fleece in bags separated. They hadn't been carded or cleaned yet,so we could feel and see the raw wool. The white one had a lovely wool,nice and soft. We felt all the black ones,and they were all nice,some more coarse than others,and there were some gray variations in the black wool ,but that didn't matter to me. The cool thing was we felt the lanolin in the wool,which of course,one does not get once it's been cleaned,washed,and carded.

I had my eye on on a little black one,mainly because I like her face and she didn't have a white mark on her face like the triplets. Her fleece was finer that than the others,and I liked that. She was shyer than the others,and faced away from us quite a bit,but she finally turned around and I got this photo of her:

Priscilla is very kind in keeping the sheep until the end of Nov for us when the barn should be complete. She told us all about the sheep's medical history,discussed when she had them sheared,and even the process of building the barn,though the more technical things she said her hubby would be better at answering. Since the black one we wanted was fairly small,she was nice enough to reduce the price by $50,saying that many folks wouldn't want a sheep that size. It didn't matter to me,I just feel in love her.

After we left Priscilla's,we went to lunch at the Wolfe's Tavern,which is located in the Wolfboro Inn in Wolfboro. Wolfboro NH is the oldest summer resort in the US. It's a cute small town,but the traffic is horrible. It's right on Lake Winnipesaukee,so there are a lot of tourists and second home owners who come up for the summer.( Many of the homes on the lake go for a million dollars plus). Rick and I each had nice cup of clam chowder,and I had a fabulous spinach salad with currants,caramelized purple onions,candied walnuts, and blue cheese crumbles,topped with a rhubarb strawberry vinaigrette.Rick enjoyed a chicken dish topped with provolone cheese,tomato relish that also had a tomato tapenade drizzled with lemon Aioli. It came with mashed potatoes and the veggie of the day.Rick told the waitress that it was the best chicken he had ever had,and she told us a bit later that when she mentioned that to the chef,the chef let out a whoop. Richie was very well behaved,and laid down under the table quietly the whole meal. No one would've known he was there if they had not seen us come in. The Wolfe Tavern is certainly a place we will go back to,and it's only 20 minutes up the road from us. New discovery!!!

Since the leaves are starting to change here,I thought it would be nice to take a drive somewhere pretty that we don't normally go to,and Sandwich called to me. Sandwich is pretty little town that was incorporated in 1763. There are gorgeous views of the mountains,and many old farms and colonial homes.I'ts the home to the League of NH Craftsman (gorgeous store),and the Sandwich Fair.It was named in honor of John Montagu,4th Earl of Sandwich( rumored to have created the sandwich).

Our trip took us to Sandwich Notch Rd,which is closed in winter. We stopped at Beede Falls,which was just a nice walk down a path.

Richie loves the water,and immediately went in. Rick said it was a good thing he had the shorter leash,because Richie would have gone right in!

We then walked to Lower Falls.

I love this photo!

Rick and Richie checked out Cow Cave. The story is that a local family's cow got caught in a storm and hunkered down in this cave until the storm passed.

We were both getting tied,so we headed back home. We did stop for a hot fudge sundae on the way,though. It was a lovely Anniversary!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Preserving Fresh Carrots

As you may have seen from my previous post,we did pretty well with our carrots this year. We wound up with approx. 8 lbs! We love carrots,but don't want to eat them morning,noon,and night,so of course,we had to preserve them. The choices:canning,freezing,or sticking them in damp soil in a bucket.

I opted for freezing,and keeping some to the side for meals this week,as well as some for Richie.

Now,many folks may think one just throws carrots in a freezer bag and plops them in a freezer (by many folks I mean me...I actually never preserved carrots,though). It requires a bit more than that,but not much. You have to blanch the carrots. Blanching is putting veggies in boiling water for a short period of time,then putting them in freezing water briefly,which stops the cooking process.It helps keep taste,color,texture from enzyme actions,cleans the surface of any left over dirt,and helps stop loss of vitamins,

The size of pot you boil them in depends on the size of the batch you wish to process. I used a dutch oven pot. While the water was coming to boil, cut off the ends....

.....and peeled them. I also set a large bowl in the sink and filled it with ice water. Since we have an artesian well,the water is very cold,so I didn't need to use ice cubes. I 

What to do with all the peelings and ends? Compost them,of course!!!

I cut the carrots into thin slices.(some thinner than others!) You can julienne them if you wish.

I put them in the boiling water and then waited for the water to come to a second boil. At this point,I boiled the slices for two minutes. ( Julienne carrots or baby carrots require a different boiling time). 

At the end of two minutes,I took the pan off heat,and quickly scooped out the carrots with a slotted spoon into the ice water. I let them sit in the water for 2-3 minutes.

I then drained the carrots and refilled by ice water bowl for the next batch. You can reuse the boiling water again,if you wish. If not,use fresh water.

You want to get as much of the water out of the carrots as possible before you bag them.

Fill your freezer bag. I used a gallon bag. You should leave an inch or so of space at the top,but get as much air as possible out of the bag.  I had been pressing on the bag to let out air,so that's why the bag looks full.

Write the date on the bag,and plop in your freezer! Ours went into our deep freezer downstairs. We will take out what we need for meals throughout the winter.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fall Harvest

Saturday I cleaned out the garden beds,with the exception of the pumpkin and tomato beds. 
Not the biggest harvest,but a harvest nonetheless:

The carrots were the biggest grower this year,beside the green beans. I could've left the carrots a while longer in the bed covered with mulch,but the beds are being moved.

See this photo below? This is where our barn is going to go.Right off our garage. The chicken coop is going to be turned to the left and will be  used for tool storage. The chickens will be kept in an area in the barn,with their own little outdoor roaming area. The window that you see on the garage is going-it's going onto the barn. That area will a door so we can access the barn from inside the garage. The back of the coop will also have a door so we can access it from inside the barn. Where I am standing in the photo will be a grazing area for the sheep and goats.

Next year,we are going to scale back the garden. It makes no sense to continue growing things that never do well,or that we never seem to eat. Garlic,carrots, and green beans are things we will grow,and more of them. This year's carrot crop was great. Plus,Richie eats green beans and carrots as part of his diet,so that will also save us money. What else we are going to do will be determined. I do want to grow a dye garden for dying my yarn.

Today I am going to freeze the carrots. Tonight it's ham,fresh carrots and potatoes (what we have of them).

How did your harvest go? Is there anything you have decided to stop growing because it just never seems to do well?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Catching... (pant)....My (pant).....Breath (pant)

Yes, I am still here,and hanging my head in shame because it's been so long since I posted last. Everything decided to happened at once these past few weeks.

Shall I enlighten you?

Oh,good,I knew you'd be dying to know!

First,some great news! Rick was accepted into the NEADS ( National Education for Assistance Dog Services) Canines For Combat Vets program. It took a long time,but he was put in,and he had to go down to Princeton MA to their training facility for two weeks. He was able to come on on the weekend in between,which was nice. It's a 2 hr and 15 minute drive one way,so on the days I had to pick him up,it meant a 5 hour drive for me. When I got home,I was wiped out,so that day was toast. When I had to bring him back,I was lucky that they allowed me to spend the night so I could at least break the driving up. 

He is now done training with his dog,Richie,and he and Richie are home.He's a lovely,gorgeous dog,and helps with Rick's anxiety a great deal. He's all business when he's in his vest,but when it's off,he's just like any other dog. We do have to bear in mind that he is working dog and not a family pet,so Rick has to be the one to feed him,work on commands with him,exercise him,etc. We can pet him and love him,but we need to remember he is there for Rick.

My schedule the last two weeks has gone like this:
Bring Rick to MA,come home Monday,troop meeting that night, grocery shopping Tuedsay,PLC meeting on Wednesday,Scout Roundtable on Thursday night,pick up Rick and Richie Friday (round trip),Sat 9-1 work the Fair parking cars for a Troop fundraiser,Sunday park cars 9-1,drive Rick and Richie back down to MA,come back Monday,work at the Fair Monday night,bring Zach to the dentist on Tues,Weds night park cars,Thursday a whole day off (!),yesterday pick up Rick and Richie (round trip).Of course, the daily things fit in there somewhere. Did I mention that we found kittens and the Mumma took off,so we are bottle feeding five kittens every few hours? Or that we are  in the end throes building new mini deck off the mud room? Or that we have to plan and build a barn by the end of Fall because we are getting sheep? Or that we had to get the brakes on the truck fixed by yesterday because the Troop is helping run Webelos Fall Overnight this weekend and our truck is the only one big enough to tow the Troop trailer? Thankfully,our Scoutmaster took Rick's truck and the trailer up and I just had to bring Rick and Richie up this AM to the camping site. Rick's brain was too pooped to come home and rush and pack and drive up there with Zach and Richie.

Deep sigh........

While many folks are used to running around on a daily basis, and think that I am a pathetic weenie, let me say that their life and mine are different. Being this busy is very rare for us. In fact,3 or 4 days can go by without me leaving-I work around the house and yard and have my own schedule to keep. I felt like a mad woman wanting to pull the hair out of my head,and kept telling myself to just keep my mind focused on what was going on in the moment.I felt very overwhelmed. Thursday I had nowhere to go,which was great,because I was able to play catch up with the house work before Rick and Richie came home.

Today I am going to plod along outside,clean out the garden beds that need it,and make some laundry soap.

Enjoy your day! I may take a nap later..LOL!

Monday, September 2, 2013

My First Attempt At Spindle Spinning

Today here in the States,it's Labor Day,which is a holiday to honor the American worker. It's a rainy day,a good one to curl up with a book (or a Kindle...can one curl up with a Kindle? I still can't).We hang out here at home,though many folks go away for the long weekend. Labor Day is considered the "unofficial" end of summer. The traffic is also terrible,which is another good reason to stay home!

Yesterday was my first attempt at spinning. I have read a couple of books, "Respect The Spindle," by Abby Franquemont and "Start Spinning-Everything You Need to Know to Make Great Yarn" by Maggie Casey. Both books are excellent. I also watched a couple of videos on You Tube to get a visual demonstration.

Why a spinning spindle and not a spinning wheel? The answer is twofold :1)I don't have the space,even for a table top wheel and 2) wheels are not cheap. Good ones run several hundred dollars,and I didn't want to invest that much money into something I had never attempted before. Spindles vary in price,depending on the wood,if there is an inlay,etc. Since I am a novice,I settled on a very basic spindle by Schacht. It has hi and low whirl capability on it,so I can practice with both to see which I am more comfortable with. ( More on that on another post). I also had to learn which size spindle to buy for the wool I am using. I am using Romney wool,which is a longer wool and is considered a worsted weight. I got the roving (wool that has been washed,cleaned,and carded)from Colonial Acres Farm,where we are buying our two Romney sheep this Fall.

So,I had my roving,my spindle,and my Kindle by my side so I could read the instructions as I went along. The first thing I tried to do was to make a leader yarn,which is the yarn that you first wrap around your spindle and then attach your roving to by spinning. It seems like most spinners use already made yarn for the leader. I didn't do that that well,it came out rather bulky,but,hey,this is practice,right?

Next came the spinning. Now,the process does seem real simple first.It really does. The wool attaches to the spindle,you twirl the spindle creating a twist and tension,and then you stop the spindle and let your hand holding the roving move upwards,so the twist runs up it. You also control the size of yarn you want. I have no photos of this,as I want to do it properly first.( I know,a visual would be much better than my poor attempt at explaining it).

It is very awkward,and I am sure that it will continue to be awkward for a while. I had yarn unwind on me,some yarn came out thin and some came out very bulky.

You can see in the photo the various sizes that came out. Not quite knit ready,is it? One thing I will say is that it is a great arm workout. My arms are sore today,and I think I spent maybe an hour working on this. 

As they say,practice makes perfect,and I certainly didn't expect to spin a perfect skein of yarn on my first attempt. Nor do I expect to do it on my second,third,fourth,fifth....

I figure if I spent even just half an hour day working on it,eventually it won't feel awkward,and I will be able to crank out yarn like the ladies I see at agricultural Fairs!! Those ladies can SPIN!