Saturday, January 29, 2011

This is Not a Cooking Blog!

I admit it.  Somehow this blog that focussed on fibre arts and living on an alpaca farm (I think that's what it started as...) is now featuring pictures and stories of food.  Food that I have made!  Food that didn't come from a box with microwave instructions!

Don't be fooled.  This is and never will be a cooking blog.  However, I feel challenged by some of my readers and also by some fellow-bloggers to step it up a bit in the kitchen department.

So, this morning, I made a lovely quickie quiche. It used 6 eggs, 1 1/2 cups of half and half, 3/4 cup Bisquick, 2 cups shredded cheddar, garlic, some bacon crumbles, salt and pepper.

It was quite delicious and fluffy.  Next time, I will try adding spinach and feta.

I also made this little lovely looking single serving to freeze.  I have to say though...the recipe says 10 minute prep, 50 minutes to cook.  In reality, it was a lot longer prep time, especially to crisp and crumble the bacon.  They didn't even mention the 3 days it would take me to wash the frying pan and pie plate...oh, maybe they aren't talking elapsed time....
AND THEN...I beat some extra eggs and put in the freezer in ice cube trays.

I think I have used up all my domestic-goddessness for one day. I'm exhausted.

Trust me, I won't soon be making my own tortillas like LuckyBunny!  Check out her blog.  I went for the endearing animal and lovely nature pictures, but I am filing her recipes in the back of my head. 

Also, if you are interested in slow-food cooking with natural goodness, check out Chapman Landings cooking school blog.  Nancy lives in my neck of the woods on a historic farm property and she's all about eating well, eating fresh and eating local.  I swear, I think Nancy could make a delicious 12 course meal out of an egg,  home-grown lettuce, some sumac, a couple birch leaves and local strawberry tea.

I have a little story about my phobia of potlucks.  Since I'm not very adept in the kitchen, I usually find something in the frozen section to bring (I do cook it though!).  Having to supply part of a meal when everyone else is into gourmet and organic is very stressful for me.  I thought that bringing a fresh veggie platter to the meal was a fail-proof plan.  That was until Nancy asked me for the dip recipe...( sour cream, pour in powder from envelope, stir until mixed.)...actually, I think she might have just been being polite.

Anyway - I am bouyed by the number of comments that people are leaving lately.  I do appreciate you dropping in and leaving a note.  Thanks.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Popcorn on My Mind

 I'm not much of a farmer.  I don't know how these chicken things work.  But, I think it's a bit like popcorn.  It seemed to take forever for those young hens to start laying eggs.  Hubby would be all happy when he came in with 4 in the morning.  Then, 6...then 7....then 12.  I think the chicken house is like a big popcorn machine.  Once one of those hens starts to lay, there is a chain reaction and all those hens are bouncing off each other popping out eggs.'s January, it's cold, and I'm running out of egg recipes.

Okay - I used 2 eggs to make some chocolate chip cookies.  I follow a couple of blogs that often have recipes.  I'm always overwhelmed by any recipe that has more than 6 steps in the instructions.  But I'm inspired by my fellow bloggers.  I also needed to prove to my daughter that I know how to bake cookies.  And, of course, I blogged the picture so that I could go back and prove it to her later again when she denies I ever baked her homemade cookies.

 Don't expect me to print the recipe.  Go buy a pack of Milk Chocolate Chipits...flip over the package...there's the recipe.
 I feel like Betty Crocker.

My friend Joanne sold her gift shop that she ran for 30 years in our small town.  She found this text book in the basement of the store as she was cleaning it out. Knowing that I'm into textiles, fibre and books, she gifted it to me.
It was copyrighted in 1925, although this copy was printed after that.  It apparently was a text book that young women were taught from. 
It's got some very interesting pictures in it regarding fibre production around the world.
In the glossary, alpaca refers to a textile, not a fibre, that is used for suiting and can be woven from mohair with a cotton warp.  In a section describing fibre-bearing animals, they write of the 'Alpaca Goat',a goat-like animal.
In books written today, a reference to alpaca textile would only mean textile made mainly of alpaca fibre.   Alpacas now are known as new world camelids, as they are related to the camel family (along with llamas, guanacos and vicunas). 
To be fair, in 1925, alpacas would have only been seen in the mountains of Peru, Bolivia and Chile.   Alpacas are ruminants (multi-stomached mammals that chew their cud) like goats.  However, alpacas are sometimes called 'modified ruminants' due to their 3 stomachs (not 4) and their soft-padded feet (not cloven hooves).

One of the great pictures in this book is of a caravan of horse-drawn wagons loaded with wool, crossing some great plain on the way to the mill.  I'm not sure how many days that caravan would have travelled to get to a mill.  I wonder if it was a lonely trip or a party caravan to celebrate the end of shearing season.

Cut to 2010, when I crammed about 100 pounds of raw fibre, along with my overnight bag, into my PT Cruiser and headed south to the mill near Kingston.  Having that much bagged fibre in my car, is like having my own crash-cushion.  Mind you, the rear window is obscured and I am constantly aware that at any moment, my windows might blow out with the force of all this fleece.  That would really make my little car look like a popped kernel of corn, wouldn't it?  All that fleece makes it difficult to find room for the bottles of wine that I pick up at the LCBO along the way...but I manage.  I always make time to visit other alpaca farm friends on my 'fleece delivery to the mill' weekend.

Have a good weekend.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Arguments - Alpaca Style

Are you fed up of winter?  Feeling a bit of cabin fever?  It's caught on at the barn, too.  This is the scene of the morning 'hissy-fit' between Carmel and Striker.  No spitting, just posturing....kind of a warning.  Not sure if there was some deep hurt between the two of them or Carmel didn't want Striker getting out the door to look at the ladies before he did.

 Alpaca disagreements usually go like this...
1) "You are in my space and I'm warning you"....(see picture above, head tilts, ears back, chin up, possibly some gurgling).
2) "Didn't get the hint?" (Carmel will spit some wet pellets at Striker)
3) "Okay, that's are really pissing me off" (Carmel will be horking up big green gobs of regurgitated hay onto Striker's fine white fleece...I find males aim for the face, while females aim in the air and let it fall).

Females will stop fighting at this point....Alpaca males can take it further...
4) (no words here because it's just pure testosterone now)...neck wrestling...running and butting chests...chasing each other around the pasture screeching as if someone is being murdered.  When they are out of breath, they'll come back huffing and puffing, lips hanging down and drooling because even they don't like the taste of angrily regurgitated cud.   Sometimes one will have a bit of the other guys fibre stuck in between his bottom teeth.  These all out competitions are all to have the prime fenceline spot in order to win the hearts of the ladies...but apparently they haven't figured out that standing there with your lip hanging down, drooling green spittle and your buddies butt-hair stuck in your teeth doesn't make you a prime candidate for date-night.

Here's a picture of Lily and her adoptive mom, Aurelia this week.  You might remember that we struggled to bottle-feed Lily, when her birth-mom wouldn't feed her.  It was touch and go until Aurelia stepped in.  She's never had a cria, but somehow started lactating just enough to save Lily.  At six months, Lily is 59 lbs and loves to eat.  Compare that to Ginger beside her, who is 3 days younger but whose mom Pepita has an abundance of milk.  Ginger is 85 lbs.

Isn't Lily pretty?

This is a picture of the little public library where I work part-time.  It looks quiet because I took the picture in the morning before I switched on the Open sign.  See how the sun comes onto the table from the big picture window? 
This is a very comforting place to be...sitting at the sun-warmed table surrounded by books.  There is one morning a week when I open the library.  That day, I try go to work a bit before opening time, so I can sit in peace with my coffee.  It's a good place to think.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Meet Some of my Four-legged Friends

My weekdays start with a coffee at the table with my family before they head off for the day.  Then, it's me and my four legged friends...
here's only a few of them...

You might recognize Smokey, the retired barn cat.  You might also recognize the alpaca/merino handknit sweater jacket, that I threw on the blanket box when I came home from the library.  Smokey has great taste.  In fact, I have had to move my retail sweaters, shawls, blankets and such into a cupboard in the shop so that he can't perch on them.  He finds anything alpaca to lay on that he can.  I figure that apart from being nice and warm, he might also be able to smell the alpaca and be reminded of his barn-buddies.

 This is Lucy.  Lucy is about 13 years old.  We got her at the pound when she was about 3 months old.  She was in a puppy cage by herself.  While the other puppies jumped up and yapped when we entered the room, she leaned her whole body against the cage so we could rub her.  She's a very loving dog.  These days, she sleeps a lot.  I think she really misses her pal Molly.

 This handsome dude is Ka'Kocha.  He's a lover with the ladies and throws very nice cria.  Unfortunately, he's a big bully with the other boys to the point that he wouldn't let them come in the barn sometimes.  So, KaKocha has a barn pen and a pasture all to himself beside the ladies.  He watches them all the time.  If I had the money to rework my farm, I'd have one barn for the girls and one barn for the boys with pastures that didn't share fencelines.  Then, the boys wouldn't feel the need to compete all the time.

This...uhmmm...interesting looking face belongs to Daewoo the black-face llama.  We got him and his buddy, Frankie, before we brought alpacas to the farm.  These llamas were destined for the sausage-factory before we bought them.

We were told he was 3 years old at the time, so he'd be about 11 now.  He hadn't been halter-trained or apparently touched very much.  I tried to halter train him, but he is a very large llama and at 3 years, he was already about 350 lbs.  It's a two person job to try to get a halter on him and he is able to drag me around the pasture with ease.  Anyway, my husband and I can manage him to give him medication, his vaccination and toenail care although it's always an exciting task.  I halter train all my alpacas to make it easy to manage them for care and transport.

Daewoo's ears must have been frostbit when he was at his previous farm. He's also not a very well conformed llama.  I don't think he'll live the full life expectancy of 18-20 years and I keep an eye on his eathing and his gait for signs of pain.  For now, he eats well and gets lots of exercise so he's fine.

Frankie and Daewoo were gelded when they were brought to the farm (otherwise, they could have impregnated my alpacas which would produce an animal with undesirable fibre).  They are sentinel guards of my herd - meaning that they are the first to see something in the fields and signal with an alarm to the others.  When they are in action - these llamas, which probably go about 500-600lbs each - look quite formidable...tails up, back arched, chests out, ears back.  We usually put them in a pasture with the weanling males so that they bond with the little guys.  It usually works so that, by the time we put the little guys into the main boys area, the llamas take quick action against any big boy that wants to bully the little guy.  I think they earn their keep.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Top Ten Reasons for Owning (Loving) Alpacas

This is my fourth post in the series about the benefits of owning alpacas.  Alpacas give a  great supply of fantastic garden fertilizer in manageable quantities (and right now, a little voice is asking me how my life got to the point that I am posting about poop to the world wide web - but it's a happy voice, so that's okay).

I don't know the scientific analysis on alpaca manure, but if you are interested, google it.  When it comes to gardening, I'm just beginning to learn.  I do know that it has done wonders for my lawn and my gardening relatives think it makes a huge difference in their garden.

Manure management is a great concern to most livestock farms.  Compared to other livestock farms, alpaca producers have a very manageable amount of manure to deal with.  Alpacas are about 150 lbs, only eat 2 percent of their body weight and can process it very efficiently.

If you are wondering (admit it, you are), alpaca poop looks a lot like white-tail deer poop…or like a pile of rabbit-droppings (granted,  BIG rabbits).  Picture a pile of little round beans.

Here's a funny story.  I had a woman email me, that she wanted to bring her young son out to see an alpaca, as they’d been researching them on the internet, and would I allow them to come for a visit to the farm to see the alpacas.  I said sure, and later the car pulls up and out pops the family…mom in open toe sandals.  It was a lazy day and I didn’t have much else to do, so I found them some boots and did a whole farm tour.  They were here for about an hour, when the woman said…”You must have a lot of rabbits around here….”.  (I am not kidding.)

We have a poop-vacuum.  (not many people can say this...)  This is actually a big lawn-vacuum that is used by golf courses to clean their greens.  We modified it a bit and can use it to suck up the manure beans when the pile is dry.  We end up with something with the consistency of peat moss and it shovels out great and without a smell.  This stuff made my lawn a beautiful green, when it used to be an ugly shade of parched beige-green.

If you’ve been reading my blog for sometime, you will also know that I am the proud owner of a manure-spreader (The ghost of my former twenty-five year-old self is aghast that I just said that!). 
You can read about my manure-spreader here.
We use the tractor to scoop up the bigger winter piles and dump it into the manure-spreader.  Then the spreader is pulled by the truck and flings the manure around the pasture to fertilize the soil.

Some alpaca producers sell their alpaca manure.  I heard of one enterprising fellow who build a cement-lined box below a grate, and then trained his alpacas to poop over the grate.  He sold enough of the clean manure to pay for all of his alpaca feed.  Mind you, he lived an hour out of 'the big city'...where lots of folk will view driving an hour to pay a farmer ten bucks for a bag of poop as a sightseeing day-trip out of the city.

I haven't got to the point of marketing poop.  Really, I've been called the "alpaca lady", and more recently, the "egg lady"....I am not ready to be called the "poop lady".

Who knew that I could write such a discourse on farm poop?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Coming Clean

There's nothing like posting your New Year's Resolutions on your blog to make you feel committed.  If you were reading this blog last year, you would remember that I posted my resolutions on this blog.  I also posted the fibre related ones on my Ravelry group 'Friends of Misty Haven Alpacas Yarn and Garment'.

Well, like many people, much of my resolutions for 2010 didn't get achieved (trying not to use the word 'failure' here).

Okay, I did spend a lot more time with my dyepot as planned. Probably spent more time with my carder than the previous year, but still not as much as I had hoped.

I also did make a point of buying less, but buying better (more local, less packaging, less frivolus consumer goods, etc.)

As I mentioned, I don't want to use the 'F-' word here (...Failure...not the other one!).  So I can be proud of many of the other things that I accomplished this year...things that I didn't consider part of my grand scheme on Dec 31, 2009.

I spent more time writing.
I read more.
I got rid of some debt.
I got rid of time commitments that didn't net me personal enjoyment.
I found a spot and made a great family getaway place to spend summer days.
I spent more time cheering and feeling Canadian pride - sparked by the incredible 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Spent more time with my camera.
Used less electricity and less gas for the car. (Yes, the environment is always on my mind, but the rising prices of electricity and gas force us all to be more mindful of how we do things.)

I caught comedian Ron James' New Years Eve special.  At the end, he was joined by Canadian musicians Kim Mitchell and Ed Robertson (Bare Naked Ladies) to sing a song called 'Why Pretend?'.  It's a funny song about the real outcomes of most of our well-intentioned New Year's resolutions.

So, in that spirit...I'm NOT making any resolutions for 2011.

My fortune cookie from New Years Day lunch says "Try everything once, even the things you don't think you will like".

Sounds like good advice to me.

Happy New Year!