A Storm Brewing

picture-3880A snowstorm in the forecast, although the predicted snow accumulation seems to dwindle as the day moves along. Dang! Now, we may see some freezing rain instead! I’d much prefer snow. Snow is good for banking the house, helping to insulate the plants outdoors, and can certainly help with the water table come spring. I was really hoping for a lofty blanket of snow to welcome in the New Year. Wouldn’t it be nice to take a long cross country ski to reflect on the places we’ve been and the road ahead? I can still hope. After all, hope is and will be a necessary endeavor as we enter 2017.picture-3882
Now that the Christmas holiday is behind us, I will start the New Year with a clean slate. First on the agenda is straightening up the studio. All the Christmas Merry-making caused a bit of a stir out there. There is still lots of wool to spin and dye for upcoming events, some felting projects that need completing, and an elf or two in the making. Organizing my workspace will probably help with the progress of these things…. it’s hard for me to be creative amongst the clutter.
Here’s wishing you the very best in the upcoming year….Peace, happiness, and love. Happy New Year!picture-3874picture-3877

In The Making….

picture-3847Our household has always been big on handmade gifts. This year I have been busy in the kitchen and the studio creating a number of home crafted items…salted caramel sauce, loaves of cranberry bread and Christmas stollen, several pairs of knitted socks, and an assortment of salves, facial creams, and lip balms.Some members of the family like to wait until the last few days before Christmas before beginning their gift projects. Our son, Noah, is one of these people. He makes up for his ‘wait until the last minute’ approach however with his talent in woodworking. He pulled down some of the beautiful walnut boards we have been storing in the barn loft to make some pretty sharp looking cutting boards. They are beautiful! I am so glad this tradition of making gifts has been passed forward. Pleased that something offered to a friend or loved one does not require a day of shopping. A gift from the heart, time spent with others, laughter, and love, ….these are the things we cherish and pause for.
Happy Holidays everyone, hope they are filled with wonder and delight!

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas”. Calvin Coolidge

picture-3838A beautiful light snow fell yesterday, six inches in all. It was an easy snow to shovel and we’re happy about that. Around here there are many paths to be cleared…to the barn, the hoop houses, and greenhouse, to the studio and little cabin, etc… even the entire driveway. Sometimes we use the tractor for this (the driveway) but prefer to clear the way without the noise and fumes. No need for a winter fitness program, we certainly get our workout. Rick and I don’t mind, we’re outdoors, together, and home, three things we love most. Inside, a pot of potato leek soup ( the last of our stored leeks!) was warming on the cookstove, a much welcome reward after a day of shoveling.
The sheep, though designed for cold and blustery weather, may take a few moments to come out and face the day. Here are a few barnyard shots from yesterday morning:picture-3830picture-3843
If you reside in the North East and got snow as well, I hope you enjoyed the wintery weather!

Holy Moley

As most of our friends and customers know, we put a lot of effort into the soil we create for our organic gardens…. vegetable and ornamental alike. Lots of organic material from compost, our animals, and leaves. The plants are not alone in enjoying this rich array of decaying material. Our gardens are quite full of earthworms. Enough so that our son Noah can easily dig what he needs for a day of fishing in short order, this is good because going fishing is often a last minute decision around here. This summer during the drought, we had woodcock feeding on the worms in our soft moist soil, in the morning we would come upon them and be momentarily startled as they fluttered away (did you know that woodcocks can eat their body weight in earthworms each day?). Having soil riddled with worms is a good sign, they are certainly helping to break down and digest the organic matter for us. But another predator has come to feed that can be less of a welcome…. moles. Worms are a mainstay in their diet, and I believe they were eating well. While I don’t mind sharing the worms with the moles, the tunnels they make can be a problem. What happens next is that voles, a vegetarian, use the tunnels to go underground in the gardens, and they can eat our plants from the roots up through the winter. In the spring, all that can be left is a hole or depression where the plant or plants were. And of course, they seem to often eat those that you cherish most! They will also girdle the bark off from your favorite trees and shrubs. We combat both the moles and voles in this way: we make a liquid combination of water, dish detergent, and castor oil. Moles and voles hate the smell of it and will leave any area you treat. It can be used as a spray on pots and plants, and as a drench on beds where you first see mole or vole activity. We use it under our covers on the pots we over winter, and in our gardens. It is best to get a head start by driving out the moles first before they make too many tunnels, and then discourage the vole as well. It’s cheap and is good insurance against large losses of your plants. The recipe we use is 6 oz of castor oil and 2 tablespoons of dish detergent to a gallon of water. Mix well and add 1 oz of the mixture to a gallon of water that you will then spray or drench with. I often use more to make sure they get a good nose full. We like to think we have room on our plot of ground to welcome all creatures great and small, but would prefer they fill their bellies outside our garden walls!

The Last Of The Leftovers

picture-3813 We are finally at the tail end of the Thanksgiving leftovers. A couple of pieces of pumpkin pie, a smidgen of stuffing, and enough turkey for one last sandwich. Then there is that bit of baked winter squash, an ample helping that no one seemed to be diving into. What do you do with a couple of cups of mashed winter squash? Bake bread!
Here’s a recipe you can follow for using up some cooked squash or pumpkin to make a delicious and healthy yeast bread:picture-3815

Dissolve 1 TBLS. of yeast in 1 cup of water. Let this sit in a warm spot for 10 minutes, until frothy. In a large bowl, mix 5 cups of flour, 1 1/2 cups of cornmeal, 1TBLS. salt. In another smaller bowl mix 1/3 cup molasses, 1 TBLS. olive oil, 1 cup of buttermilk at room temperature, 1/2 cup of mashed squashed. Add wet ingredients to dry, add yeast mixture. Stir well, then knead for about 7 minutes. put kneaded dough into a large oiled bowl and let sit in a warm spot until double in bulk….about 2 hrs. Punch down, form dough into two round loaves and place into bread baskets or into 2 large oiled glass bowls. Cover lightly and put into a warm resting spot until dough has risen. Gently invert dough onto baking sheet (sprinkle a bit of cornmeal onto the baking sheet), Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.