Friday, August 29, 2008

Hoping for redemption

After the "Sun Pickle debacle" and ensuing public outcry over said preserved cucurbits, I felt it necessary to try to save face and assure people that I really do know my way around a kitchen. Judging by the comments on that post, I am pretty sure at least Nancy K. ( if not several others), is still having nightmares about my failed experiment.

Today is Friday, and that means prepping for market tomorrow. Originally, when I first signed up for market, my intention was to sell my fiber, along with my polymer clay figurines. But I don't always have my yarn and roving back from being processed when market begins on May first, so I needed something to fill in until I had all of my wares. I decided that, since I like to bake, and darn it, I am pretty good at it, I would bring a few cookies along to sell. I guess the cookies have taken on a life of their own....not like the Sun Pickles, that is all together different. Now that I have started the baking, people expect their favorite flavors of cookies every week, and boy do I get in trouble if I can't accommodate.
One of the most popular varieties is the White Chocolate Macadamia nut cookies.
Of course I make regular Chocolate chip, Oatmeal Raisin, Peanut Butter, Snickerdoodles, and Sugar cookies, but one of the big favorites are the Double Chocolate Chunk cookies. If you like chocolate, these are your guys. Soft Chocolate cookie dough with lots of chocolate chunks. Kind of a cakie, fudgie, chocolaty thing all going on at the same time.
Once everything has been baked and cooled it needs to be packaged and labeled.
New this year are the Salted Nut Rolls. You may have heard Miss Effie mention them a time or two...they are slightly addictive. I feel like a drug dealer at market. I have people walk up to my booth, and in a hushed voice say, "Miss Effie sent you have any nut rolls?". I am a little afraid when I run out.

I am thinking of bringing some of my Sour Cream Pumpkin Bundt cake to market when the weather cools a bit. It is really yummy with a cinnamon, brown sugar filling. I figure that would probably be a good way to make delicious treats and use up some pumpkin......... Okay, you already know that I am strange by now, so here goes. I was at the grocery store a few months ago, and I saw that they had the Libby's canned pumpkin (the big cans) on sale for 25 cents. What? Yes, 25 cents. I thought that maybe it was about to expire or something, but no, the "use by" date was April of 2009, the clerk told me that they had just ordered way too much and had a good deal on it. So, by golly, I decided to buy some....okay, a lot....okay, like 60 cans...whatever, don't judge me, I'm OCD I can't help it. So we eat a lot of pumpkin. Also sheep and chickens enjoy pumpkin, as do the dogs...not so much with the horses..........need any pumpkin?
So that is what I do on Friday's. My neighbors are all aware of my Friday baking routine, and interestingly, they just happen to stop by to say "hi" on Fridays. Coincidence? I think not.

The last thing I do to get ready for market, is pick any produce that I will be taking. Mostly peppers, but my apples and pears are almost ready to go too. Since I have become obsessed with canning stuff, I have less to bring to market. Maybe I should talk to someone about my hoarding tendencies?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Yarn and eggs and stuff

Okay, where did August go? This is a quick update as to what has been happening here lately.

A very nice family from Des Moines came out last weekend to look at sheep, they are planning on starting a spinners flock, and decided to take Broderick and Sophia home with them. It is always sad to see lambies go, and it was especially hard to see Sophia go. She is a yearling, so I have had a lot more time to get attached to her. Of course, Broderick was one of my favorite ram lambs, but I know that they have a great home now and will be well cared for.

Good-bye Spartacus!So long Sophia :(.

My spinner has once again worked her magic with my fleece. I have started getting my hand spun yarn back, and it is just beautiful.....maybe I should learn to knit my spare time...'cause I have a LOT of that.

This is some of my favorite yarn. It is from my wether (castrated) Diego.

He has the most incredible fleece. Soft, crimpy, lots of luster, gorgeous.
But poor little Diego, there is a reason why he is a wether.....or a lot of reasons. He is absolutely the cutest little guy, super friendly, adorable. However, he is a complete disaster as far as conformation. This little guy looks like he was put together at five o'clock on a Friday night..with leftover a group of workers that had done waaaay too much overtime...and were drinking....yup, that about sums it up. But he has great fleece, and I love, love, love him.
I am donating some hand spun to the silent auction at Jefferson, and I am planning on bringing the last two Diego skeins (I sold the rest the first day I had them and I squirreled away two skeins).

We have been working on the new chicken yard. That project got moved up on the priority list after we lost several of our chickens to a fox last week. He brazenly went into the horse barn and grabbed some of the girls that roost there at night, and was still curled up sleeping in the barn the next morning when I went out to do chores. We lost Frostbite, Naked Chicken and one of the Blue Laced Red Roosters. We had to move our free range girls into the coop with the younger girls. White Chicken is most certainly not amused. All of the chickens will now have a fenced run for the daytime and will be confined at night.

Some of the little girls that you have seen grow up on this blog, have started laying eggs, with varying degrees of success. Hmmm, small, smaller, smallest.
Just to give you a point of reference for the smallest egg, this cracks me up (no pun intended), I have never seen a chicken egg this small. I should open it to see what the heck is in there.

Sorry for the brief update, things should hopefully get back to "normal" after I get back from Jefferson.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Barn Swallows part two.

How many baby Barn Swallows can comfortably fit into one nest?

Apparently, not this many!

Good thing these little guys are about ready to fledge.

Monday, August 18, 2008

If I could save time in a bottle...or even a freezer bag.

I don't know where the time goes. This time of year is rivaled only by spring lambing season for morning slipping away into dusk before the long list of chores has been completed. The garden is coming in full force, as are the weeds. It seems strange to say, after all the rain and flooding this spring, but we do really need some rain right now. With the dry August that we have had, the gardens have had to be watered almost daily, adding another 'must do' to the list. I thought that my green beans were done producing....until I figured out that my lovely pooches were up to their old tricks and were 'helping me' harvest beans...for their own selfish purposes. So, now that I have gently reminded my canines of proper gardening etiquette, I am once again reaping plentiful harvests of the delectable green pods. So much so, that I have found yet another passion. Canning! Yes, my friends, I have always canned...applesauce, jellies...all the usual more acidic fare that does not need to be canned with the use of a pressure canner. Then my friend, Miss Effie, convinced me to start canning those beans, and she would even let me borrow her pressure canner. Yes, one of those gigantic pots with the gauges and gadgets on top that sputter and hiss. The same ones that you heard your Aunt Martha talk about when she told the story about the old lady down the road with 50 cats that let the pressure canner get out of control and blew up her house, spewing cat hair into the next seven counties.

I apprehensively accepted the offer, and Miss Effie brought me the canner... thankfully, complete with the instructions. Mind you, I too have those horror stories floating around in the back of my mind, and I was wondering if this was really a good idea. I diligently (nervously) read the instructions...12 times...okay 30 times, and finally thought to myself, how hard could this be? I gathered my supplies, read the instructions again, and began the process. I started feeling more confident as things started coming together. Jars washed (check), beans washed, snapped, and loaded in jars (check), boiling water and salt added (check), lids sealed (check), canner filled with the appropriate amount of water (check), canner filled with the appropriate amount of water (I had to check again, sorry), canner cover on and sealed properly (check). Now all I had to do was turn the heat on, and wait for the little thingy at the top to jiggle (oh, yes, it was set to the correct amount of pounds of pressure, I checked). Pretty soon said thingy started to jiggle, so okay, now I have to turn the heat down a little. I am still a bit nervous at this point, so I am reaching across the stove, trying to reach the dial with my arm stretched out as far as it could possibly be and still be attached to my body, cautiously keeping the eye closest to the stove squinted closed... 'cause, oh, yeah, if that puppy blows it is going to help a lot if my eye is closed. I finally made purposeful contact with the control and was able to adjust the heat to the recommended number of jiggles per minute. Success! Processed for the required 20 minutes, waited for the pressure to go down and the sputtering to stop, wondering what would I find when I opened that contraption.


What? Did you think I was going to screw it up??
So now, oh, yeah, I've got this. I am canning everything I can get my hands on. I have become a 'produce hussy', trying to see what I can trade at the farmers' market for produce. "Please, just one more bushel of peaches? I'll give you some homemade salted nut rolls? Cookies? How about some yarn?". It's really sad. Sure, I could just buy some produce, but where is the glory in that? I am all about the barter system. There is some kind of thrill in knowing that you got a fabulous deal on something and were able to preserve it for all eternity...or at least through the winter. Then I have the added bonus of having a titillating tale of veggie procurement to tell every time we open a jar for supper.

Here is one experiment that I am not so sure about.

Sun Pickles. I was at the neighbor's house the other day (NOT Miss Effie's), and they wanted to show me how to make Sun Pickles. I thought, sure, why not? They had some made already and offered me one, they were pretty tasty. Basically, you throw a bunch of vinegar in a big jar with a bunch of cucumbers, salt, dill and stuff, then you add a piece of rye bread, what? Rye bread? That's where they lost me too. Anyway, we did mix up a batch, and I brought it home...did I mention that I now had to put this concoction in the sun for 5 days?? This is what it looked like after 5 days. Some kind of horrific science experiment gone bad. I guess that's what it is supposed to do......I did get to remove the bread after I took it out of the didn't help much....I dunno.... I hope we don't get botulism from my new obsession. Thanks Miss Effie.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Lamb updates....finally!

I was still having trouble convincing my sheep that they needed to have their pictures taken today, so this is going to be as good as it gets.

I tried to post older pictures of each one as a small lamb, and then a current photo following. So here they are, without further ado, the good, the bad, and the somewhat less attractive.

First we have Crosswinds Fiona. Fawn katmoget ewe ( Sommarang Edrea x Sommarang Effrem). Very sweet ewe with outstanding fleece and conformation...gotta love that katmoget fleece! Fiona is staying here.

Baby pic.
Here she is all grown up.
Below-Crosswinds Briannah (SheepyHollow Red Trillium x Sommarang Effrem). I love this little ewe. She is very feminine with a slighter build. Awesome conformation, fleece and tail. Briannah will be leaving for her new home in Missouri the middle of the month.
Baby Bri

Big Bri

Below-Crosswinds Fallon (SheepyHollow Lovey x Sommarang Effrem)
Black krunet ewe lamb. Fallon has nice conformation with a larger build, intermediate fleece and good tail. She has always been a clown, very sweet and friendly. Fallon is still for sale $200.

Little Fallon

Big Fallon
Below-Crosswinds Guinivere (SheepyHollow Lovey x Sommarang Effrem) Twin to Fallon. Guinivere is a great little ewe. Nice conformation, fleece and tail. Guinivere is staying here for now.
Baby Guinivere

Big Guinivere...she is very athletic and had aspirations of becoming a basketball player, but alas, no opposable thumbs.
Below-Crosswinds Aleena (Sommarang Daisy x Sommarang Effrem). Aleena has great conformation and a good tail, her fleece is wonderfully crimpy. She is one of the youngest lambs, and looks like she will be a small ewe. Her dam is one of my favorite ewes with wild spotting and is modified, so I am going to keep Aleena to see what the heck she ends up like.
Little Leeny
Slightly larger Leeny
Now for the boys.

Below-This is Oliver. (Thistle Keep Teleus Longtail x Sommarang Effrem). Oliver has turned out to be a handsome boy with great fleece. Oliver is now wethered and will be making his home in Missouri with Briannah.
Below-Dillon (twin to Oliver). Dillon is also a wether. He actually has beautiful, square conformation, a tiny tail, and has awesome, soft, black fleece, but he has small scurs ( horns) and I haven't had much luck selling scurred rams, so he was wethered and is still available as a fiber pet. $75 Very sweet boy. Dillon... leaning on the fence.
Below-Broderick (Sommarang Daisy x Sommarang Effrem) 'Brody' is a gorgeous black, smirslet, sokket, ram lamb.

I think the appropriate shorthand would be written as HsT (since he only has 2 socks....Nancy?)

Baby Brody
I love this ram lamb. He has excellent conformation, fleece and tail. Like all ram lambs, it will be a test of time to see how his horns develop, my only concern is his left horn, which at this point looks like it may end up a bit tight. Time will tell. He is Aleena's twin, so he is the youngest of the boys and has a lot more growing to do. Technically, I have him for sale on my website ($150), but I am not 100% convinced that I want to sell him..
Big Broderick..or Spartacus, as my kids call him...helmet and chin strap, I guess.

Nice bum, eh?

Crosswinds Duncan (SheepyHollow Red Trillium x Sommarang Effrem) nice moorit krunet ram lamb. Carries spotting Genetics. Great conformation and fleece, excellent tail. Horns look good so far. $150

Next, sadly, we have disappointing yearling rams :-(.
Here are some yearling rams that I held over to watch their development. Unfortunately, I had some horn issues last year and was disappointed in how these boys turned out.

No, I am not going to hide my 'mistake sheep'... everyone has some, though you may not always see them. After all, genetics are a funny thing, haven't you ever been at a family reunion and thought...seriously, am I related to these people? Really? We have the same genetics? Are you kidding me?

Crosswinds Maxamillion ( Thistle Keep Sage Brush Vole x Underhill Gulliver AI) F2 Dillon. Ag Gulmoget ram. I had high hopes for this guy. Smaller ram with gorgeous, square conformation, nice single coated fleece and awesome tail. His right horn cleared fine, but the left one is growing inward, he did injure it when he was young, but I can't say that that has anything to do with the growth now. D profile horns. I guess he could be wethered for a fiber pet, with his horn trimmed, but what a shame.....

This conformation....
This fleece.....
And this teeny, tiny, tail...
Below-Crosswinds Apollo ( SheepyHollow Red Trillium x Bluff Country Rock Star)
Really nice moorit flecket yearling ram. Very nice conformation and great tail, with fleece almost as awesome as his sire's. Apollo's Sire, Rocky, has TO DIE FOR Fleece, and Apollo's comes pretty close. Unfortunately, his D profile horns are really tight. If anyone has a use for one of these wonky horned boys (wether? Cross-breeding?) email me.

You will notice in my earlier post that I purchased a ram lamb for my future flock sire that looks like he will have really wide horns....if that doesn't work I may have to get a ram from Juliann, dammit! LOL. She raises polled Shetlands (no horns). Obviously, I need to take a better look at some of my ewes' horn genetics as well, since these two boys' sires are completely unrelated.

Ewes still for sale.

Crosswinds Sophia (Thistle Keep SageBrush Vole x Underhill Gulliver AI), F2 Dillon. Nice, bigger yearling ewe with great conformation and tail. Nice wool on cheeks and poll. She has tiny horn buds that grow about 1/4" and then break off. More of a double coated fleece $200. Very sweet and friendly.
SheepyHollow Red Trillium ( Sommarang Claire x WVF McGyver). Two year old moorit Flecket ewe. Nice conformation and tail, beautiful, soft, crimpy shorter staple length fleece. Wonderful mother, no lambing problems. $200. Not a particularly friendly ewe, but not wild, by any means. This picture was taken in the rain, so her fleece is a bit soggy. As always, I am willing to negotiate prices if my sheepies are going to good homes.

So there you have it, I have some really nice sheep...and some that have issues. As with most breeders, I am always working on improving my flock by adding genetics that will help correct any perceived problems....I can't do anything about anyone's family reunion though...

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