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Saturday, April 25, 2015

surprise!


Look what we woke up to Monday morning! Two little ewe lambs, born after a storm.

Friday, April 24, 2015

honesty (and a quick recipe)

Just going to be straight-up honest with you here, folks: the no sugar challenge? It isn't going so well. I've been clear about the fact that I've had food issues in the past, and I have found that when I tell myself that I can have absolutely no sugar of any kind, it tends to trigger some really bad eating patterns. Mainly that I summon all of my willpower for a few days and feel very good and noble, and then I reach a point where I can't take the deprivation any more and I eat everything sugary that I can get my hands on. So. I'm not too proud to admit that I need to reevaluate.
 
I want to eat in a way that is healthy for me and for my baby. But beyond that, I am going to remove the "rules" and just eat. If I have to cut out sugar and sweets completely for a medical reason such as gestational diabetes, then I will cross that bridge when I come to it. But otherwise--I know from experience that I do best, and actually eat the healthiest diet, when I give myself permission to eat everything. Yes, I might have an occasional brownie. But when the forbidden fruit factor is taken away, I eat far fewer of them than I do when I feel like they aren't allowed at all.
 
If you've never struggled with emotional eating, this probably makes no sense to you. But for some of us, the way that our brains are wired, it's true.
 
Also, the thirty days of posting challenge...it has gone pretty well, but I have missed a few days. I love this blog, but there are times when life and family take precedent, and I won't apologize for that. So. I guess I am eating crow all the way around this morning, but I'm not going to put myself under that pressure any more either. I still want to post regularly, but it may not be every single day.
 
In order to keep this post from sounding completely self-absorbed, I want to share a quick recipe that our family loves. It's actually so simple that I'm embarrassed to call it a recipe...maybe chicken cooking method would be more accurate. But whatever you want to call it, it's tasty. I am not very good at cooking meat...I tend to overcook it and it ends up dry and tasteless. This doesn't.
 

I start out with a package of chicken legs, which for a large family is a pretty economical way to go. I got a package on sale at Kroger last week for a little over four dollars, and I think it had fourteen pieces in it--enough for supper and for several of us to have it for lunch the next day as well. Thaw. Place them in a single layer on a greased cookie sheet or in pyrex pans. You will end up with a little juice, so just make sure that it's a pan with a lip all the way around so that you don't have a mess in your oven.

Brush generously with melted butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

I like to put baked potatoes in the oven at the same time. Throw together a salad, and it's about the easiest meal ever. Well, other than ordering pizza.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

wool



Ok, I know that this looks like quite a mess, but it is actually something that I have been anticipating for a whole year...the first wool off of my sheep!

This year has been a learning experience when it comes to sheep and to Shetlands in particular. Did you know that due to the fact that they are a somewhat primitive breed, some Shetlands shed their wool naturally? You can just pull it off in tufts, and it's call rooing. Apparently my two yearling lambs have this in their genetics, at least partially, because I was able to pull about half of the wool off of Oliver, my little wether. I sheared the rest with scissors--totally unprofessional, but I was afraid to use shears since they are really sharp and Oliver isn't very gentle and I was by myself and holding him between my knees while I gave him his haircut. I'm glad no one was around to watch. Haha. The scissors worked great, as long as I took things slowly. Even the wool that hadn't detached on its own had a natural break in it that was easy to see, so I was able to shear him without many secondary cuts. I didn't nick him at all and he actually looks pretty good. I'm proud of myself!

 I brought the wool in the house and picked out as much of the hay and other vegetable matter as possible, threw away any really matted or disgusting parts of the fleece, and washed the rest in the bathtub with Dawn dishwashing soap. Then I spun the water out using the spin cycle on my washing machine. It took three washes to get it clean, but it is beautiful! I do have one little problem, and that is some waxy little flakes in it that look like dandruff but will not wash,  pick or comb out. I asked about them on a Shetland Facebook page that we belong to and apparently they can be the result of skin mites or lice on the sheep. It's totally treatable, but does lessen the quality of the wool. That was disappointing, but I think that most of the fleece is still usable. I'm anxious to shear the other three now and find out if they have the same issue.

I tried to shear my yearling ewe, Annabelle, next but she is even less friendly then Oliver and it did not end well. Remember the scene from the second Anne of Green Gables movie where Anne and Diana chase the cow through the swamp and end up face first in the mud? Well, that would be me. We had just had four inches of rain. I decided to wait and try again when Stephen is around to help me hold her!

Next up: carding, spinning, knitting. I haven't decided yet what I will make out of this wool but I want it to be something special. Homegrown and handcrafted from start to finish. Such a thrill!

Monday, April 20, 2015

here at last



After weeks of delays, Stephen was finally able to make the trip back and pick up the rest of our animals, who were staying at my dad and mom's place. We are so happy to have them here! I love to wake up in the morning to the sound of the rooster. And my sheep...I have missed them so much. I could spend hours out there, just watching them and scratching Galdalf, my sweet grey wether. We have fresh eggs again! And best of all, this means that the move is complete.

Expect lots of sheep and fiber posts in the near future. Lambs, shearing, so much going on in the next few weeks!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

2 years old!








Our Beatrice turned two yesterday. Such a funny, confident, snuggly little bundle of joy...we couldn't be prouder of her or love her more. We celebrated with a honey bee party for our little Honey-Bea.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

spicy asian sauerkraut

 
I wanted something other than your run-of-the-mill sauerkraut not long ago, so I decided to add some new flavors to my regular recipe. If you are new to the world of fermenting, don't let the massive amount of information on the subject that you will find online confuse or discourage you. It's really very simple. In a nutshell, you add salt to vegetables and let natural bacteria work their magic. While I'm sure that a lot of the fancy equipment available out there is nice, I have never used anything except a bowl, spoon and mason jar, and I have had great results. I highly recommend Sandor Katz's book The Art Of Fermentation. It really demystified the whole process for me and gave me the confidence to just do it.
 
Anyway, about the sauerkraut. I shredded a head of green cabbage and two carrots, and added about a teaspoon of fresh ginger root, grated, and a few shakes of red pepper flakes. Then I added salt until it tasted good to me and let the whole thing sit for about twenty minutes.
 
When I first started making sauerkraut, I followed online directions that called for a massive amount of salt (I think it was 2 T per quart). The result was so salty that I could hardly eat it. Katz suggests just adding salt until it tastes right, and since I've been doing that, I've had much better results and have never had a batch spoil.
 
Also, a lot of recipes tell you to pound the cabbage with a wooden mallet for twenty minutes to release the juices. Honestly, I don't have the time or the energy to pound for that long. I have found that letting it sit after salting releases enough juice to cover the cabbage, and if it isn't quite enough, I just top it off with a little filtered water. So much easier than the pounding method.


You can see here how juicy it is, after sitting without pounding. I did stir it a little and press it with the back of a wooden spoon.

Then I packed it into a quart jar, making sure that the liquid covered the top. Or at least mostly did. Some of the veggies float, but that doesn't seem to be a problem.


I covered it tightly with a lid and let it sit on the counter for three days. Voila! Sauerkraut! With a wonderful gingery, spicy kick. It is so good on meat with a little Dijon mustard.

I probably should add that when you ferment vegetables, sometimes you get a particularly active batch that bubbles and leaks out of the jar. If this happens, it's a good idea to loosen the lid and release the pressure, then tighten it again. Sometimes you have to do this several times over the course of the three days. It will keep the jar from exploding in your kitchen--something that you really don't want to happen!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

coffee and tea

 I admit to being a bit of a snob when it comes to my tea and coffee cups. The vessel that I choose to drink out of must be A) beautiful, B) match my mood, and C) just the right size and shape. Nothing corny or silly, nothing with a bank or a feed coop logo on it, and especially nothing that advertises a funeral home. All of my mugs were chosen for a specific reason, with great care.  I do own a set of plain white mugs that came with my plain white Corelle dishes and while I occasionally drink out of one of them (I guess that would be when I am in a minimalist mood), I generally like something with a little more character.

This one, for example, is the one I use most often for my morning coffee. I bought it at an art festival from a local potter and it is just the right size for the amount of coffee that I want in the morning. I also love the fact that hand thrown mugs hold heat longer than store bought ones. I get up early and I only drink one cup of coffee, so I like it to stay nice and warm for a good long time.


I just may have a new favorite, though...this one, given to me last week by my younger sister. She knows me so well. Yellow and Grey. With a bird. I absolutely love it.


 Then there is this one, which makes me happy just to look at. I got it from Knitpicks with a gift certificate that my mom gave me for my birthday one year. Black outside, beautiful apple green inside. And a sheep. What's not to love?

 
Every time we visit Stephen's family in Georgia, I visit a local shop that sells Georgia-made crafts and pick up a mug by this Cherokee potter. These are the ones that Stephen uses most. While I do use them sometimes, they are masculine. Nothing fluffy. Simply beautiful craftsmanship.
 

 
Believe it or not, this post does have a point. A shallow one, but a point nonetheless. I want to show you my latest find. We have discovered a little cafĂ©/market in the town where I buy groceries that specializes in local, natural and organic food. Their lunch menu has things like farm soup (potato and kale) with homemade, whole wheat sourdough focaccia. They sell local, free-range eggs, raw cheeses, and all kinds of tea pots and cups. The first time I went in there, I texted Stephen: "I have never been to a restaurant that gives you compostable straws!" It makes me happy just to walk in there.
 
They sell a variety of bulk herbs and spices, including pink Himalayan sea salt for--get this--$3.00 a pound. We were nearly out of salt so I stopped by on my way home from getting groceries today. I came away with a pound of salt, some bulk dried nettle for pregnancy tea, and...
 

Is this not the greatest thing ever?

My inner anglophile is happy. And I can't help but think that Winston Churchill and C. S. Lewis would approve. I brewed myself a cup of nettle tea this afternoon and could practically feel them breathing over my shoulder.