Friday, September 30, 2011

Pears on the ground, pears on the ground, what you gonna do with the pears on the ground?

I thought I was done making jam this week......

Then it got windy yesterday.

I guess I am making more pear jam.

 There are still a lot left on the tree too. Yikes!

"Don't worry, we'll help you clean these up, won't we Emma?"

"Yeah, anything to help out!"

" Nom, Nom, Nom."

   "Boy, this is hard work!"

"Oh, Emma, why must you be so vulgar?"
" Waitress! Dahhhling, could you please wash a few of these pears and slice them for me? Not the ones from the ground, pick some off of the tree. I would also like a chilled glass of Moscato- and be quick about it!"

Friday, September 23, 2011

A tale of two Cucurbits and other scary garden stuff.

Every year I start planning out my gardens in January when all the colorful, attractive seed catalogs start to arrive. Every year I swear that this will be the year I have a magnificent garden, this will be the year that my garden stays weed-free and I will have the most beautiful vegetables in all the land. I say that in January. The sad reality is, every year I start out with a lovely, well-tended garden...and then life happens, or, Mother Nature happens. For the past three years, spring has started with obscene amounts of rain, followed by dry, dry, dry summers....great for growing weeds...not so much for vegetables.

The most troublesome crops for me to grow have always been pumpkins and squash. I have no trouble planting the seeds and getting them to sprout out of their nice little hills, lovingly constructed of composted manure and rich garden soil. I water them as their vines take over the garden, the yard, the pasture. I watch as they flower and start to set fruit. Inevitably though, the Vine-Borers arrive, and they bring their friends the Stink Bugs, feasting on the plants until vines begin to wither and die. Once the bugs start, the damage is done, and I have wasted a huge portion of my garden space with nothing to show for it. Last year I was able to baby along a few measly Pumpkins and some wonky little acorn squash to maturity, but upon cutting them open, I found that they were mealy and mushy inside. All of my efforts ended up in the compost pile. That was it! No more growing of anything in the Curcubit family for me! Too much space lost, too much time, work and effort. I was done!

This year I only planted crops that were more manageable, more cooperative and less...well, buggy. I envisioned a pristine garden with immaculate rows of glorious vegetables and perfectly tilled walkways......yeah, I can envision all I want, but that didn't happen. With the now all-too-familiar rain/drought scenario of the previous summers, my garden went the way of gardens past and reverted to it's, ummm, it's more natural state. The good news is, if anyone is in need of Pigweed, Cockleburs, Water hemp or Lambs Quarters I can totally hook you up.

Yes, I had pretty much thrown in the proverbial towel on my garden. 
Then, one day I happened to pass by the compost pile and saw an enormous vine snaking it's way across the pile, winding through the manure and straw . I took a closer look and noticed the familiar leaves of a squash or pumpkin. It apparently sprouted out of the remnants of the composted vine-crop disaster of last year. I chuckled and thought to myself, those will never grow, I can't get them to grow even when I plant them on purpose! I left them, certain that they would meet their demise once the insect population was in full-swing. Well, they didn't. They kept growing, and growing, and growing. They laughed at the insects. They soon overtook the Asparagus bed. 

Not only did the vines grow, but they began to set fruit.

They took over fences.

And they claimed the wood pile.

They grew right into the raspberry patch.

As the fruit matured, and after we had a little rain to wash it off, it occurred to me that they really didn't look like the same variety of pumpkins that I had thrown in the pile last fall, they are much, much darker and the creases are deeper. I am thinking that there was cross-pollination last year between the Acorn Squash and Pumpkins and the resulting seeds that sprouted are hybrids.....Squmpkins, if you will. 

It's a good thing that other vine crops can't cross pollinate like squashes and pumpkins can because then we could be looking at a crop of Squattermellon, or Zuccumbers- that would just be wrong.
I have yet to cut one open to see what the innards look like....I will keep you posted..I know this is all so riveting!
My other garden misadventures involve my Sweet Potatoes. The vines were fabulous, but when it came time to dig them up, I felt more like I was performing an autopsy than gardening.
Because we had so little rain this summer, the ground was hard, and dry, and didn't allow the roots to spread out to form nice, long, plump taters....
Instead I got what looked like intestines.

And a heart.

OK, so maybe I have a vivid imagination.
I did find a couple of decent-looking Sweet Potatoes.....unfortunately someone else found them first. Darn varmints!

That's it! I'm done! I am pretty sure that I will soon be fencing off the area where my big garden is and adding that space to the ram pasture. I have discovered in my old age that, contrary to what I have always believed, I can't do everything...or at least I can't do everything well. I still have a smaller garden area that is closer to the house, and it is still more than adequately sized to keep our pantry stocked through the winter. I'm not giving up completely, I am just giving myself a break. 

I can't wait until the seed catalogs start coming! Did I just say that?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wisconsin Sheep and Wool festival

So, our maiden voyage with Harrison Ford ( the truck, not the man ), went well and the drive itself was relatively uneventful. He got us safely to our destination in Jefferson, Wisconsin.
Surprisingly.....or maybe not so surprisingly if you are a follower of this blog...we still needed the assistance of my new GPS to find our way, even though we have been going to this show for many years.
When we arrived at the fairgrounds on Friday, it was so great to be greeted by all of our sheepy friends, and it was wonderful to be surrounded by so many beautiful Shetlands. What a great weekend! This year we had two amazing judges from the UK - Kate Sharp and Alan Hill, they have both raised, and judged, Shetlands for many years in the UK. These two judges know more about Shetland sheep than I could ever hope learn in three lifetimes.

And they are just plain fun!

My only regret about the weekend is that we didn't get to the fairgrounds in time to take part in the Judges seminar that was conducted Friday morning. I was able to join in on the ram/ewe inspections later that day and learned so much more about our breed and why preservation of certain conformation traits is so important. For more detailed information, check out my friend Theresa's  blog. There will also be a DVD available soon of the judges seminar ( I can't wait to get one since I missed the seminar), it will be full of great information for anyone with Shetland Sheep ( Email Kelly at to reserve a copy).

I brought 6 sheep with me with the intention of showing two ewe lambs, two ram lambs, and one senior ram. I also brought one ram lamb to sell.
I ended up showing only one of the ewe lambs, two ram lambs and my senior ram.
I was on the fence about whether or not I should show my ewe lamb, Athena; she had just turned 4 months old ( she was the last lamb born this past spring on May 5th) and I thought she may be a bit young to compete - but I ended up showing her, and she did great, taking third place out of a class of 36 really nice ewes!

I also showed Sommarang Gilroy, placing 4th in the senior ram class. Gilroy has sired some awesome lambs for me. He was bred by my dear friend Lori Stephenson. Lori has some of the nicest Shetland Sheep ever and she has been a mentor to me and she has been a huge part in helping me get my flock where I need it to be with fleece and conformation. Thanks, Lori!
All the show results will soon be posted on the Midwest Shetland Sheep Breeders website. There were some really exciting wins for some of my friends, so it was nice to see them get recognition for all their hard work and dedication to the breed.
Here are more pictures from the show.

My buddy Juliann Budde from Little Country Acres with one of her lovely polled rams.

The Fulks family with their small flock.

My favorite part of going to this show is catching up with old friends, and making new ones. Most of us are scattered across the US, and this is the one weekend during the year that we really get to spend time together.
Here are just a few of the usual suspects....I miss them already.
Left to right are Mike and Kelly from OK Acres, Briony is in the middle....she doesn't own sheep, but often gets dragged into the show ring when people need an extra pair of hands showing their sheep. She also cooks a mean pot of vegetarian chili! Lastly, but not least(ly), Garrett from Ramsay Farms, Garrett is like the little brother I never wanted....errr..ALWAYS wanted, I meant always, Garrett..
After the show was over, there was some sheep rearranging to be done.....some 'Sheep Math', if you will...Sheep Math is a lot like Chicken Math, so try to follow along.
 I brought Pegasus and Apollo to show, with the intention of keeping them. I brought Helios to sell. I brought my two ewe lambs only to show, I had/have no intention of selling them, and I brought Gilroy to show and deliver him to my friend Laura, from Psalm23 farm, so she could lease him for breeding this fall. So, the plan was: Sell Helios, drop off Gilroy, bring home Pegasus, Apollo and the two ewe lambs. That was the original plan. Leave with 6, come home with 4.....until I decided to lease Avyt for breeding again this fall, so it no longer made sense to keep his two ram lambs, Pegasus and Apollo, so Pegasus was sold and will be making the girls at Under The Son Farm in Indiana happy, while Apollo will be residing in Minnesota at Ramsay Farms. Helios, the ram I was planning on selling, ended up coming home with me, along with a nice katmoget ram lamb from Ramsay Farms, plus Avyt and the two ewe, I came home with 5, but if you followed any of that you can now proudly say that you are a scholar in the fine art of Sheep Math.

New katmoget ram.WhitePine Nessie's Monster Mash (M&M). He was 4th in a very large class of ram lambs and helped secure a 3rd place in pair of ram lambs!

 Since Helios is an Avyt son too, he still needs a home. He is a nice moorit ram lamb and he carries spots. He has a super-sweet temperament.

His fleece is fine, very crimpy with a lot of  ((SpRiNgY)) to it.
I am already looking forward to the show next year!
Wow, there are a lot of links in this post!

Friday, September 9, 2011

And the winner is...

OK, so if you have looked at the poll stats, you've already seen who the winner of the Name the Truck contest is, but if you haven't looked, the winning name is HARRISON FORD!
The name was submitted by my good friend/ neighbor Miss Effie... more accurately, Mister Effie, (better known as 'Honey') thought up the name, and Miss Effie submitted it. So he/she/they are the winner(s). But I have decided that since they live right up the road and have access at all times to the aforementioned fabulous and exciting prizes, and considering the fact that I have issues and would worry that others that submitted names will feel left out ( hence me giving 8 name choices rather than the three that I originally intended), AND   taking into account the fact that Miss Effie has a cult-following that may have influenced the poll, I am going to also award prizes to the two runners-up.
So, without further ado, here are the winners:
Sally Kennedy from Utopia Farm was the first runner up with the name Roamin' Roman.

Christine Bryne from Front Porch Indiana was second with Mike, as in Mike Rowe- who I adore...

Congrats! Contact me with your choice of prizes, ladies! Miss Effie, you know where to find me.

I'm off to Jefferson, Wisconsin in Harrison Ford for the weekend!

First blog post EVER without pictures??!!??

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The polls are now open!

OK, so this was waaaay harder than I thought it would be. There were so many great names submitted for the "Name the Truck" contest that I couldn't pick just three truck names for you to vote on, so I narrowed it down to...well, several...for this completely unscientific poll. The poll ( on the RIGHT upper corner of this page ) will be open until 1:26 AM Central Time on Friday, the 8th of September ( yup, that's tomorrow ). What? It's my poll, I can pick any ridiculous time I want for it to end.

If you don't see your name, it doesn't mean I didn't like it, some of the names submitted were names of family members or pets that we have......or my ex-husband's name, so that wasn't going to work out.....nope, that would be a bit strange.

If we have a tie between two or more, I will narrow it down and may have to extend the voting for a second round.
Vote once....who am I kidding? I have no way of telling how many times you get your coworkers to vote for you.
Annnd, GO!

Monday, September 5, 2011

No rest for the wicked.

I am sure that many of you spent Labor Day relaxing with friends and family, enjoying each other's company, and taking a break from the usual hustle and bustle. Unfortunately, not everyone had the luxury of relaxing away the long weekend. There was none of that lollygagging around for my rams, they had important work to do! They decided to observe the Labor Day Holiday by taking full advantage of the beautiful weather with a little light house-keeping and a nice little remodeling project.
I think what they were working towards here was the clean, open look of Contemporary-style interior design, with a nod to the Garden design style, offering views of the flora and fauna, really bringing the outdoors inside for a light and airy feel.

"Walls? We don't need no stinkin' walls!"

"Our shelter is so much more Feng Shui now."
This is what happens when Autumn is in the air....or the scent of ewes in season... and a young ram's fancy turns to thoughts of love....and the ewes are on the other side of the property.

And that's why they are called "Rams."

There have been some really great names submitted for the "Name the Truck" contest, I have no idea how I am going to narrow it down to only three! You can still submit names until....well, until I add the poll on Wednesday morning...I'm not great with rules.
I hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend, and all of your buildings are still intact.

Friday, September 2, 2011

This is your assignment, should you choose to accept it.

Yup, I did it again. I have abandoned my blogging duties. But, after several 'gentle' nudges, and some not-so-gentle nudges in the form of comments left on my Facebook page, I got the hint that it was time to update.

First off, for those of you that don't follow my Crosswinds Farm page on Facebook, I have some sad news. I lost Willow, one of my favorite older ewes, a couple of weeks ago. We will miss her very much. I know that many of you have followed her on this blog over the years, and many of my market customers have made lovely garments from her fleece and looked forward to purchasing her fiber every year. I know they will miss her as well. That is all I want to say about that.

Other sad news. 
I had to say good-bye to Larry, my truck, recently as well. If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you have met Larry through the tales of the misadventures that occur every time my sister Marie and I take a road trip. As my husband so aptly put it, "You and Marie have been lost in some of the best parts of the country in that truck."  He was not even joking when he said it. Dead-pan serious.
I've had Larry for over 10 years and he has carried sheep from every corner of the Midwest, pulled horse trailers on the way to trail rides, hauled goodies home from various flea markets, and kept us safe through all kinds of weather, crazy traffic and misguided directions from a GPS that wanted us to drive off a cliff.....don't say it....

Good-Bye Larry :(

There is good news though. There is a new man in town. Meet.........ummm...
this guy.

Here's where I need your help. This guy does not have a name yet. We used to always say, " Let's take Larry." But now is like... " Hey, let's take...ummm...the truck." It just seems wrong.
We are going to need a name before our first official road trip in this truck to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool festival the 9th, 10th and 11th of September...I know, it's only a week away!  I have faith in you, you can work under pressure.
You can leave name suggestions either in the comment section of this blog, or on my Crosswinds Farm facebook page. I will pick the top three favorite submissions on Tuesday night...sometime...not midnight 'cause I have already been in bed for a couple of hours by then. I figure the deadline should be Tuesday night because that will give those of you who only read blogs and check Facebook while you are at work ( you know who you are) a chance to catch up after the long weekend's OK, I won't tell  your boss. Besides, this is so much more important. So, just get your suggestions on here soon(ish) and then I will add a poll on this blog on Wednesday so you can all vote on your favorite of those three.....geesh, I hope this works. In return, the winner will have the dubious distinction of being the person that named the truck, and in some small way you will always be a part of our awesome adventures. Thrilling, I know.  As if that wasn't rewarding enough, there will be fabulous and exciting prizes. 

This took a bit of deciding, and as most of you know, I am not good at deciding. 

SO, the winner will receive their choice of: 

An 8 ounce ball of roving .
Two - 2 ounce skeins of handspun  yarn .
For those of you that are not fiber enthusiasts, you can get 6 of my famous, homemade Salted Nut Rolls.

Here are the rules:
1) It has to be a people name...because it is much more fun to refer to him by a name associated with a human being, mainly because it really confuses people at a truck stop. For example: when you say, "Should we stop and wash Larry before lunch?"  it gives you many more raised-eyebrow-reactions from by-standers than, if his name was something like..The Blue Avenger.

2) It has to be a strong name...this guy is going to have to put up with a, listening to Marie's Queen CD's over, and over, at a decibel loud enough to shatter glass in passing vehicles..... I seriously have no idea why our husbands never want to come along on these adventures...I digress.

3) The new truck is a Ford, but it can't be named Henry, or Henri, because both my dad and my brother are Henris....Henries....Henrises....what is the plural of Henri, anyway? My point is, it would just be too confusing.

There you go. That is your assignment. Do it soon so we can decide on a name before the trip.

If you can, join us at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool festival. It is a huge, ginormous amount of fun. Make sure you stop by the Shetland Show on Saturday, there will be Shetland breeders from all over the country there with lots of pretty sheep ( and lots of other breeds as well ) can watch me embarrass myself by trying to drag a 120 pound ram around the show ring....I really should have started halter-training a long time ago.  It. Will. Be. Awesome.

Don't worry Garrett, we have a new GPS, so we won't be driving over any cliffs this theory.

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