Friday, September 27, 2013

Things that happen in the Fall if you are a Knitter.

There are 88 days left until Christmas, a holiday which inspires ridiculous self imposed expectations from knitters everywhere. Of course, I am far too clever to fall prey to that sort of...Hey! Are those three manly, thematically connected sock patterns that would be perfect for my father and brothers?

I can totally knit six socks in time to mail them to Colorado for Christmas. No problem.
Possibly inspired by the staggeringly delicious Pumpkin Ice Cream at Young's Jersey Dairy, I got 375 yards of this handspun, which is called Pumpkin Patch. This photo shows approximately 12% of its loveliness and cements my desire to buy a wheel and just start spinning, already. I know that I have a drop spindle and a spindolyn and that plenty of people spin sweater quantities not just on drop spindles, but on improvised drop spindles made of sticks and old AOL installation CDs. I'm not one of those people.

Also seen at The Woolgathering - Tunis Sheep. I also saw Finn Sheep, various goats, horses, jersey cows, and pigs - but I'm giving my personal "sweetest little face EVER" to these darlings.

I know that this photo is startlingly yellow. Rest assured that the sheep themselves have lovely auburn faces and creamy fleeces, and that the tent they were in was in fact startlingly yellow.
Tent color was a big factor in this whole event, actually. This was the better option, the rest of the tents were red and made everything that wasn't red appear to be red anyway. Knitters everywhere were ducking under the sides of the tent to be sure they weren't inadvertently buying red yarn.

There were also deep fried cheese curds, which were a normal shade of yellow, but startlingly delicious.

Just you and me, Mom. And the yarn.
The rest of what is happening is that I have three pairs of socks and a shawl on the needles, two sweater quantities of yarn (both orange - I'd have an excuse if I lived in a tent) calling my name, a new pattern booklet came home with me from knitting this week, I must knit a hat INSTANTLY, all the yarn in the world seems to be on sale, and I have scored an immensely coveted Fat Squirrel Fibers knitting bag.

Luckily, Leah is going to be gone all day this Saturday and I will be able to wallow in fibery goodness with wild abandon. I may pile all of the sock yarn on the floor and roll around in it while binge listening to podcasts and flipping through back issues of Knitscene. Or, you know. I could finish socks and a shawl.

Monday, September 9, 2013


Out driving again, this time well and truly lost somewhere near Goshen. Suddenly, a pick your own orchard came into view. Yes, please!

I was expecting apples, and apples they certainly had. But I've never before been able to pick pears. We walked down a hill, over a creek, past the beans and the pond and the gazebo and found these golden beauties. We filled our bucket to the sound of contented bees, feasting on the fallen fruit. We got a lot of pears. Actually, it's a ridiculous amount of pears for just two people, which became sort of a theme. I'll be looking for pear butter recipes, and seeing if a pear a day keeps anyone away. The dentist? The chiropractor, maybe?

After the pears, we looked for apples. But then we got waylaid by the sight of a bucket full of grapes. Grapes! They were delicious, a world apart from the flavorless, seedless, chilly green globes in the grocery store. The air between the vines smelled like the grape juice you remember from your childhood, when a purple moustache was the fashion accessory of the summer. We totally went overboard on the grapes.

We did pick apples too - a mere twelve pounds, so apparently we had learned a little restraint by then. (Or the buckets got too heavy.) But surrounded by so much abundance, what can a person do but accept it?

I'm still not entirely sure where we were. But I took a picture of the sign, so we can find it again. In a few weeks, it'll be time to explore their pumpkin patch.

Friday, August 23, 2013

I'm not really in the market, I'm just...looking.

It's just something I've always done, inherited from a mother who lured us out of the house on a Sunday with promises of adventures that always ended with an "Open House, 2pm - 4pm" sign.

Ok, so I hit the little heart button on the Zillow listing. It doesn't mean anything. Maybe I showed some pictures of the little house to Leah, our heads close together over my phone as we sat at the bar after work, enjoying our happy hour drinks.

But I do that sort of thing weekly, at least. Okay, not weekly. But certainly not more than every other day, unless I'm really having a bad week or have recently been around sheep or goats, or have seen some really nice landscaping that I'm sure would work in a homestead situation. But really, it's just looking.

Or it was, until the price was cut. Now? Now it's a call to the county assessor's office, a preliminary talk with Leah's bank and an appointment with a realtor to look the place over.

To look it over - just to look. Really.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Whipporwill, Part One: Soaps and Salves

When I told my parents I was going to Berea, Kentucky to attend the Whipporwill Festival, they immediately said, "Your Grandmother loved Berea more than any place else in the world." I can see why.

There are a lot more words inside of me about how this landscape makes me feel, but I don't think they are quite done yet. Let's just look at the morning sun shining over these wooded hills for now.

The reason we were there, of course, was to learn! Here are the fine folks from Joe's Bars and Suds, demonstrating the finer points of making soap with goat's milk. Not only did I learn some great things about using milk in soap, but some truly exciting things about the goats themselves. Quote of the Class: "If a fence won't hold water, it won't hold a goat." Duly noted!

Here is the salve making process in action. Those vessels hold oil which has been infused with herbs, and beeswax (from the hive, granulated, and pellets) is being stirred into it. At room temperature the oil and wax combination is solid but will melt into your skin, allowing you to absorb the herb's medicinal qualities. Pretty cool!

First, allow me to say - do your research. Don't make medicines out of toxic or unidentified plants. Of course, you knew that. Moving On...

Another nice thing about salve is that, unlike medicines taken internally, dosage is not super critical. So, the infused oil doesn't need to be a particular strength, and you can keep slapping it on until you feel like you are sufficiently salved. It's nice to trust your intuition and to listen to your body, particularly where your health is concerned.

I've got pomace from soap making and a block of beeswax in my kitchen cabinet. I think some nice soothing salve may be in our future, because as usual I got a freakish sunburn - ironically, during this class.

Now, *I* don't feel like the sunburn is really that bad. It doesn't hurt, I just feel a little glowy and warm. But judging from the reactions of everyone from Leah to workshop facilitators to the server at the Bob Evans on the way home, I look horrifying. I just hate the feeling of sunblock, yuck! But I promised Leah I would get a large hat for future outings.

For this outing, we also bought some (clearance!) folding camp chairs. When you fold them down, they have a large pocket on the back and backpack straps, so you can carry not just your seat but everything else along with you. Genius! We refrained from the self inflating sleep mats for now. But I have decreed that if we go camping three times, we will buy them. Camping out was great, but I did sleep so very well on The Marshmallow last night. (That's our mattress, and it deserves the name.)

So check out HomeGrown HideAways. Maybe we'll see you there.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Big Green Box of Goodness

French Lentils, Kale, Mushrooms

Leah and I decided to sign up for Green Bean Delivery, in order to keep me out of the grocery store, where I spend ALL THE MONEY. It's a pretty neat service wherein you place a standing order which you can modify weekly. It provides a lot of local, sustainably grown, and certified organic foods.

So far, it has not been much of a cost savings. But I think it's a very good value - I may not be saving money but I'm certainly not eating out for lunch, a time at which I make grievously poor food choices.

Broccoli and Parmesan Frittata

I've also been working more eggs into our diet. Eggs have so many good points that it would be hard to list them all here, so I'll limit myself to saying that they are cheaper than eating chicken, and that if we hope to homestead one day we are going to be knee deep in them. We might as well get used to consuming mass quantities now!

Scalloped Tomatoes and Turkey Mignon

Cooking every night gives me something marginally interesting to post on Instagram (where I am mymadetomeasure). Most of the time the pictures turn out better than this one. Promise.

Cheesy Couscous with Oven Roasted
Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Carrots

Our order includes vegetables and milk every week, automatically. If I want something else, I have to add it to the order. Mostly I don't, so mostly we're eating vegetables! This goes so well with all the documentaries we have been watching about how the American Lifestyle is devouring everyone's resources like a plague of designer jeans wearing, early gadget adopting, 401k balance watching locusts.

Quinoa, Kale, Carrots, Tomatoes,
 Feta and Cilantro Ranch
(AKA First Watch Knockoff)

Having a lot of variety makes it easier to attempt to copy things you've had at restaurants. It doesn't usually come out the same way, but it's rarely bad! Actually, it's kind of hard to go wrong when you start by sauteing onions and garlic and just throw things in from there.

Zucchini Gratin

Of course, ready made recipes are wonderful, too. I've been making a lot of Barefoot Contessa recipes lately and they have been uniformly wonderful. Ina Garten is clearly some kind of culinary fairy godmother. And I've been eating so many veggies that I don't feel the least bit sad about all of that bread and cheese. Hey, the French do it.

In addition to all of this, the local options have been increasing as the season rolls on. This week we'll be enjoying local cabbage, kohlrabi, yellow squash, and kale. I was crazy excited about the local farmer's market when it started up in the spring but it only runs until 7pm on a weekday. I don't get out of work until 5pm, and by the time I got to the market the only things left were beets and people packing up empty bins because they were completely sold out. One of the farms that provides produce to us is less than ten miles from our apartment and I don't have to run my car in rush hour traffic trying to get to my greens. It's a win-win!

And there's one more benefit which can't go unmentioned:

Zeus. Honestly, we DO pet him from
time to time.
There's a little hole in the lid of the delivery crate that is the perfect size to hold the stem of the cat toy.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Micro, Macro (Fair Warning, there is a picture which includes roadkill although not gratuitously.)

Driving on country roads has inspired us to declare 2013 the Year of the Buzzard.

The buzzards are reluctant to participate in the required publicity events...

And generally seem annoyed that we, their adoring public, are interrupting their (rather unpleasant) lunches.

I did attempt to interest these sheep in blog based fame, but they were more interested in eating their heads off. This is actually fine since I'm more interested in their fleeces being of high quality than dealing with the histrionics of primadonna sheep.
So I thought that I might be looking in all the wrong places for the next big thing. In fact, maybe the problem was that I was looking for a big thing. Big things (charismatic megafauna, you might say) get all of the publicity, all the attention - and is that really fair?

So, allow me to present the star of the weekend drive:

Ooh, Shiny.

Today: Six. As in, the extremely photogenic Six Spotted Tiger Beetle

(I know that this beetle has more than six spots. He's an overachiever.)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Soap Number...One?

Hey, look...

I totally made soap. 

So, my mother is a woman of action. Once, when my father was asleep upstairs, she decided that the kitchen and the dining room would be better as one great big room. She got a sledgehammer out of the garage and started to knock down the wall. 

I took a soapmaking class last summer, when we still lived in Denver. Then I ordered some supplies and left them in a box. I bought a book about making soap. Then I packed everything in a container, moved it cross country, into a friend's garage, then into my own apartment. A few weeks ago I picked up a few more things I needed. I read some posts about soaping on the internet. I planned to make soap but put it off by fiendishly knitting stripey socks...well, you get the idea.

On Saturday morning I needed to mail a package, so I put it in a shopping bag and walked down to the local post office (go postal union!) in town. On the way home I stopped in the Goodwill. As luck would have it, it was 50% off of everything day, and I got two enormous pots with lids for about eight bucks. One of them was just right for soap.

When I got home, it was too late to start making soap. I dragged the box of supplies out of the bedroom. 
I needed to have dinner, and you can't interrupt soap making. I found my scale and measured out the fats. 
I was nervous about the spatula I had bought for mixing the lye solution being too short, and planned to get another one. I put on rubber gloves and carefully added the lye to cold, distilled water. I never bought an immersion blender to stir the soap with, and I didn't have a proper mold, just old 9 x 13 baking pans lined with freezer paper. I stirred the thickening mixture with my widest spatula for a good half hour and added apple and juniper berry oils when it began to trace, poured it into my pan, and covered it with a blanket. Clearly, I was entirely unprepared for this soapmaking thing and it would have to wait for another time.

So here's what I've learned:
Always check the Goodwill.
Curing soap makes the whole apartment smell awesome (back off on the apple next time, though.)
Apparently, if I'm going to be a woman of action I've got to do it while I'm not looking. 

Today: 32 bars. That's a lot of cleanliness.


A big space to eat in

A nice place to walk

Fields of expectation

A well made house
The many beauties of green

The value of whimsy
And, of course, a goat.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival

So, you can't go wrong starting out with the CUTENESS...

A White Dorper Lamb

Leah enjoying some Mountain Brew

Then there was old fashioned sodey pop, complete with a souvenir tin cup. We had root beer, then red cream soda - then we felt a little bloated and over sugared.

But we kept the tin cup, so I think all in all I can count it as a win.

Sleepy Sheepie

This sheep is mostly a Wensleydale, and entirely adorable. Doesn't it look like it's smiling? You know, just enjoying the breeze, glad to be in a tent and not out in the rain, lying on some nice thick straw. What more could a sheep ask for?

I didn't get his name, but he was totally ready for his close up. I actually got photo bombed by several animals at the festival, but I like this one the best. I just love those devil eyes!

Table 310
Shakespeare and Co.

Then we went into Lexington, had a bite to eat, walked around enjoying the town, and discovered that bar ceilings are more interesting than previously imagined. I'm sure there's a coffee table book of them out there somewhere.

Now this is the hardest thing to describe. On the way out of town, we were under a huge raft of dark clouds. Up in the distance, where the cloudbank ended, thick sunbeams the color of lemons and egg yolk poured down onto the road. As we came out from under the darkness, blinding sun and pelting rain hit us simultaneously. We were at once in wonderment and extremely limited visibility. After the deluge, we tried to take pictures of the dramatic and towering clouds. This was, I'm afraid, the best we could do. 

We took the road home through Cynthiana, which was incredibly gorgeous - probably the nicest terrain I've seen in Kentucky, which is really saying somethings since it is a very picturesque state. On our longer trip in June we plan to go back down the same way. 

Today: Three - no, Four. That's the number of fiber purchases I made although I still don't have a spinning wheel. Wool Fumes, people!! They're no joke!