Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spring on the Farm 2015

Spring is in full swing on the farm. I took a few minutes today to walk a bit of the farm to check on our progress. I discovered lots of happy progress.

The grape leaves are still growing and we have lots of TINY grapes beginning to grow. Such a great relief as last year we didn't get any. They had been so overgrown we had to do a major pruning job - and as a result went a year without grapes. We should have lots of grape jelly and wine making going on this year!

The azaleas are in full bloom. Most others around are fading, but mine are just starting. They are quite overgrown, but I didn't want to prune until after they were done blooming. So they will get a haircut in a few weeks.

The blackberries are starting to flower! They are just at the beginning stages of flowering, so I expect they will be super pretty in a few more days. We just need a little more sun and some warm weather.

The peaches have a few fruit 'buds' on them. Considering how much the deer and/or sheep have enjoyed munching on these little trees, I will be surprised if we get anything we can eat. But I will be watching!

My potatoes have FINALLY started to pop up! I was worried we got them too deep and they would not sprout at all. This is the first time we planted them with the tractor. So, like everything else, we have done a bit of experimenting.

The birds are all growing quickly. All of our chicks arrived the end of March. About 125 new birds. The ducks are the fastest to get BIG. Which is normal. We will be keeping a few ducks on the farm this year in an attempt to get eggs.

The meat chicks are hitting their ugly stage. Gone is the cute downy yellow fluff.

The eggs layers are the oldest - and smallest of our 'new' birds. But they will be the prettiest. :) They should start laying late August/September.

The sheep are shedding like crazy. They are mangy looking creatures, but continue to be a joy to have on the farm.

We got a little more work done on the roadside stand. That is a slow process that we work on as time allows. We don't really need it done until mid June, so we are not in a rush.

We are trying hard to get the garden planted. It is a long process as I can only do so much squatting at a time. It is back intensive work. But the first round of all my veggies are now in! Hopefully I will finish the second round over the next week or so. We also need to get the corn and cotton in the ground.

PHEW. I'm tired.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Miss Pearl's Broomstick Lace

I have been working on this crochet blanket for what seems like an eternity. Actually, I started working on it during the 2014 ice storm in NC that left us without power for a few days. But, as the weather warmed up, I stopped working on this project as it was just too hot. Then as the weather started to cool, I started working on it again. I have finally finished this lovely blanket and they kids are fighting over it. Even though it is a lace pattern, it is really warm.

I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful neighbor (Miss Pearl) who is 90 years old. She still lives on her own and drives. I love all the time I get to spend with her. During the time of no power, Miss Pearl taught me this pattern. It was such a surreal experience. Almost as if we had traveled back in time. Of course, Miss Pearl lived without power for many years. It wasn't until 1951 that she had power to her house. Crazy, right? The things I have learned while working on this project have been incredible. The stories she has told...

Anyways, onto the pattern. This is a fairly good size blanket. I am doing it as a scrap blanket - using up lots of odds and ends of yarn. I don't know how much yarn this blanket required - lots. Most of this blanket used partial skeins of all types of yarns. The best I can say is several thousand yards of worsted weight yarn.

You will need a HUGE knitting needle (mine is size 35) or a broomstick handle. Something that is about an inch in diameter and 12-18 inches in length. This will be used to set the size of the 'lace'. Exact size is not important, it will just make the loops bigger or smaller. I will call this the 'point' as that is what Miss Pearl calls it.

Read through all the instructions before you start. There are some notes at the bottom that will help working the entire project. These pictures are all from mid project. The first row of lace will help set everything in motion. Once you have that first row of lace complete, then you can simply work from the previous rows, doing your best to stick to the pattern.

Let's get started!

1. Chain 300 (you may want to use markers along the way so you don't lose count).
2. Single crochet in each loop on the 'return'.
3. Put Loops on the Point: insert hook into first sc, yarn over, pull up loop, put loop onto the point. Repeat in the top of each stitch (and no, I don't count. Just keep going until you can't go anymore). Your point will be full and tightly packed.

4. Do not turn your work. Going back, in the first 2 loops, sc 5 times. The first sc is a little different -your hook is already 'inserted' through the 2 loops. yarn over, pull up loop, yarn over and pull through the one loop on the hook. All other sc will be normal. Since the first sc of each row is really a partial stitch, it makes pulling up the big loops of the lace slightly tricky. the very last loop to pull up will be in the funky stitch. You will see when you do it. Feel free to ask if you run into any problems.

5. In the next 3 loops, single crochet 3 times.
6. In the next 3 loops, single crochet 3 times.

7. In the next 3 loops, single crochet 3 times.
8. In the next 9 loops, single crochet 3 times. (notice, 3 of the loops are from a 3-3 set, 3 are from a 9-3 set and 3 loops are from another 3-3 set.)

9. In the next 3 loops, single crochet 3 times.
10. In the next 3 loops, single crochet 3 times.

11. In the next 3 loops, single crochet 3 times.
12. In the next 3 loops, single crochet 9 times.

13. Repeat steps 5-12 until you get to the end. You should have 2 loops at the very end, single crochet 5 times in these 2 loops.
14. Now you need to put loops on your point again. You simply repeat steps 3 through 13 until you put as many rows on your project as you want.

I wanted to keep my color changes at the ends of rows, as opposed to mid row. But that is entirely up to you. Of course, that means I now have a bunch of little scraps left over. To be a truly scrappy blanket I would simply change as my yarn ran out.

Sometimes, my counts get off. I have no idea why - apparently I don't pay quite enough attention as I am doing this. But this is a very forgiving pattern in which you can hide the mistakes. Make sure the top and bottom of your zig zags line up. Sometimes I do this by using just 2 loops instead of 3 or 7 instead of 9. Just depends on how badly I messed up. Don't worry, no one will notice.

Let me know if you have any questions. It is really a very easy pattern in which you don't have to do a lot of thinking. The best type of pattern as far as I am concerned.

Happy crocheting!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Crazy Farm

This weekend we welcomed some sheep to our farm! It has been so exciting adding some larger animals to the farm.

Meet Daisy May and her baby Binky (both are white). Binky is about 3 weeks old.

We also brought home Mabel who was pregnant. On Monday, Mabel gave birth to a cut little boy we named Hunter. Hunter looks a bit like a cow. I was lucky enough to witness the birth!! Mabel did a great job and is proving to be a wonderful mother.

About 1 hour post birth

With the addition of new animals to the farm, I have been put into scenarios I never dreamed possible. I also have imagined some scenarios I am SOOOO thankful never actually happened. I have to share these as they have given me some good laughs - now that I know they didn't actually happen and hopefully they never will.

The first came about while Mabel was in labor. Remember, we have NO experience with sheep - or other 'large' farm animals for that matter. I was blessed to witness the birth of a cow a few years ago at a neighbor's farm. There I learned that if the cow labors for 30-60 minutes and doesn't progress, they will help with the birth. Now, here I am watching Mabel move around with a couple of hooves emerging. I figured I should probably watch the clock. After about 20 minutes with NO progress, I was starting to worry (thinking about the cow time frame). I was able to get a vet on the phone, and sure enough sheep have the same 30-60 min time frame. Mild panic starts to surface. Luckily, mama was doing well and in no obvious stress. So, I start to prepare to 'help' mama. I found some gloves and washed them REALLY good. Changed my clothes and took my coat off - wouldn't want to ruin that. All the while I was praying Mabel would be done by the time I checked on her again. No such luck. A little more panic starts to surface. This is a sheep that doesn't know me, it is her first birth, I may need to help her, and I am the ONLY one home. ACK! Time to put my big girl panties on and do what needs to be done as we are now at about the hour mark. I take a few steps towards Mabel and she starts to bolt. Oh crap. I took a step back in hopes she would calm down.  How on earth am I going to hold her AND get the baby out??? So here is where the CRAZY scene pops into my head. Me, straddling Mabel BACKWARDS to try to hold her still while grabbing onto baby and pulling. Meanwhile she takes off running and there I am trying to hold on with all  my might and trying to deliver her baby. It still makes me laugh. Luckily, nature took over and Mabel delivered within another couple of minutes. I think God knew I was in way over my head and gave me Mabel a break. PHEW!!!

2 days post birth

The second scene that never actually happened came on Tuesday (the very next day). After getting home from work I let the dog out and went out to check on the sheep. And yes, I did change my clothes first - the mud on the farm is CRAZY after 2 days of rain. As I approach the area the chickens and sheep are, the dog is going crazy. A couple of steps reveals why - Binky had gotten out of the fenced area she was supposed to be in. Oh crap - again! I need to open a gate and get her in without letting the other sheep or chickens out. The dog needs to be put up as who knows what she is going to do. Daisy May is beside herself as she can't protect her baby. After several failed attempts on my part, Daisy May and Binky are now BOTH on the wrong side of the fence and in danger of getting into a tangle with the dog. Likely that scene was hilarious to watch - I bet we could make millions if we were on tv.  Then I see it - the gates that are my only hope of keeping these sheep contained on the farm are WIDE open. ACK! Enter, crazy scene. Daisy May and Binky running down the road with me chasing them, yelling, and waving my arms trying not to get hit by cars that are FLYING by at 55 mph. Luckily, I was able to get the dog in the house and gates closed before the sheep got out. By the time I got back, my little lovelies were safe and sound back where they belong. PHEW!

Thank goodness nature just took over and the right things happened. Since then, we have been trying to work with them so they aren't so skittish.

Hopefully there won't be any more situations that come up that will cause my panic to rise that much again. But, I'm sure there will. Until then, we will have fun with our newest farm members.

Until next time...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Grandma Leffler's Molasses Cookies

Gramma Leffler - well, actually she was my great grandmother. I had the privilege of having her in my life until my senior year of high school. I just wish I had the opportunity of knowing her now - as an adult. Gma use to sweep the front porch when she came to our house to visit. I always thought that was the WEIRDEST thing. I mean, dirt does belong outside after all. But of course, now I sweep my outside porch/steps too. There are many days I smile as I find myself doing the things she use to do - that my younger self thought were crazy.

There are 2 recipes Gma was known for (at least within the family). One - her yeast rolls. Many in the family have tried and tried to get this right. To this day, 21 years after her death, no one has succeeded. Obviously, we are missing something from her recipe. The other recipe, her molasses cookies. Luckily, these are much easier to get right. I always think of Gma when making these, while wearing my apron and listening to music - they way Gma use to. Well, actually, she usually hummed and did everything by hand. I love my Kitchen Aid mixer, and am happy to use it whenever possible. Since my singing voice is nothing to write home about, I listen to the radio.  But the smells and the taste are right - which is all that matters.

Seriously, these are GOOD! They are always a hit at parties and other events. I can't seem to make them fast enough. If you have never had molasses cookies before, these are kind of like ginger snaps, but less on the ginger flavor and heavier on the molasses flavor. AND, these are soft. Which is by far my favorite way to have cookies.

In case you are wondering, I never make my healthier substitutions on this recipe. The changes in flours and fats would make substantial changes in flavor and texture. You would notice the difference. Now, you can try making the substitutions and you might like the results. But for us, we stick to the original, as it is tied so tightly to memories.

So, on to the recipe...

3/4 c shortening
1 c sugar
1 egg
1/4 c molasses
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger (ground)
1/2 tsp cloves (ground)
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 c flour (all purpose)

some extra sugar to roll the dough in.

Preheat oven to 350.
Line cookie sheet with parchment paper - because really, who wants to clean up that pan with cooked on grease?

I start at the top of the list and work my way down.
Cream shortening and sugar (usually for 1-2 minutes until the texture becomes light a fluffy).
Add egg and molasses until incorporated.
Add the next 5 ingredients and mix until incorporated.
Add in the flour one cup at a time.

I use a cookie scoop (that makes about 1"balls).
Scoop dough into 1" balls and roll into sugar. Place on cookie sheet. See - they are not perfect. It doesn't matter.

Cook for about 7-8 minutes. DO NOT over cook. The edges will only be SLIGHTLY golden. These are a bit over done. Still yummy, but the tops have a little too much brown in their golden. :)

Put on a rack to cool. Now - try hard not to eat them all. It might be a bit challenging.

Hope you enjoy these as much as we do.

Until next time...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Hand Made Bathing Suit

Off the rack clothes fit most. HAH! As I learn more about alterations, I am learning to see how most people go around in clothes that just don't fit. A dart here or there, the right sleeve length, pant length, etc can make such a difference in how a garment fits and feels. I still have A LOT to learn, but that is part of the fun, right? RIGHT?

I am really supportive of others - it's not you, it's the clothes. Don't worry about making you fit the clothes, make the clothes fit you. Seriously. But I still struggle to apply that same thinking to myself. REALLY? Yes, really. I know, just shake your head at me and move on.

So, I'm thinking of making a bathing suit. Maybe if one fit better and actually flattered my body I might feel more comfortable. Also, I refuse to spend $100-$150 on a cute, modest suit that will never really fit quite right. So, I'm going to do a little fabric shopping and see if I can make one for under $30.

I have a few ideas pinned to my sewing pinterest board along with some tips - just in case anyone else wants to join me in my new quest.

I was thinking something like this...

Or this...

But, since I WILL NOT do a halter top I will do something a little different. Don't get me wrong, I love the look of halter tops - on other people. But they are not flattering for me, and they just HURT! 

So, do you have a favorite swim suit? Where do you like to shop for suits? Have you ever made, or thought of making, your own suit?

Later y'all!