Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Day Spent My Way

We've had a lot of beautiful autumn days so far.  Tuesday was one of those days.  The sun was shining and made a perfect day for washing some windows. The temperature made it lovely to be outside and pull the garden that the frost had taken.  A nice warm breeze was perfect for hanging out blankets on the line.  I could leave the door open while dragging out the basement "barn room" rugs and boot trays to wash outside.

Oh, the list never ends...

But, I had something else on my list. 

So, Tuesday afternoon was mine...alone...

with a DVD that I borrowed from the my local spinners and handweavers guild...   

and my spinning wheel...spinning soft the kitchen, with the warm sunshine streaming in the window.

I needed that.  I should do it more often!

Take the time to do what you love.  You deserve it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cap Complete!

I finished my In-Between Seasons Cap that I knit in my lovely handspun 3 ply yarn.

I've had this yarn labelled and on my store shelves for a while.  One day it called out to me and said "Hey, I'd feel great wrapped around your head!".  And if you knit, you just know, that when a yarn calls to is time to listen (in other words, if you hear little voices in your head, it might be time to slow down and knit yourself something!)

The yarn was homegrown. I carded some fibre from my bay-black Cyrano with some lovely dark Polwarth lamb fleece. The colour is of the very darkest chocolate. It was spun and navajo-plied on my Lendrum DT.
This is a picture of my alpaca, Cyrano.  This picture was taken when he was about 3 or 4 years old.  By then, he had won a few show ribbons and would have just started his breeding career.  He is 8 now and has sired several offspring.

It was a good thing that I really enjoyed knitting the hat.  The pattern told me to start my decreases after I had 4 inches knit from the edge.  As I knit a few decrease rows, I had a feeling that I might end up with a hat that was too short for my big fluffy-haired head.  But I also feared getting to the end of my one ball of this handspun before getting to finish the hat.  So I took the chance, continued to knit the whole thing and as suspected, it didn't cover my ears.  I also had a good size ball left.  I ended up ripping the hat half back and putting in an additional 1.5 inches before the decreases.  I'm so happy that I did.  I love this hat, in the look, the fit, the colour and the OMG-its-so-soft yarn.  I may knit another hat in this pattern.  I enjoyed the twisted stitch patterns.

I've been taking advantage of the nice fall weather to get my raw fibre skirted and sorted in the shearing shed.  This is the tedious work that goes on between the day of shearing and the day that the fibre can be sent to the mill, but it needs to be done properly to ensure that the yarn is of top quality.  Because my shear shed isn't complete weatherproof, the day must be warm, not raining and not windy.  If I don't get it done while the weather outside is nice, then I have to drag my skirting table into the sunroom for the winter.  Skirting raw fleeces is a dirty job and I don't like having to do it in the house.

Dyeing is something else that I like to do before winter as well.  I heat the dyepots in my sunroom where the windows can be opened and the rest of the house is closed off from the smell of hot vinegar.

I've added a skill to my knitting bag - the Twisted German Cast On.  My friend showed me how to do this particular cast on method on a sock that I had started about 10 months ago!  The one sock languished in my knitting bag for a long time.  I recently picked it up and finished that sock.  Then I couldn't remember that cast on method that she had shown me.  YouTube to the rescue again!  It didn't take me long to find the KnitWitch video on Twisted German Cast On .  I cast on using the two needles of the circular held together.  This makes a nice, loose, stretchy edge on the top of my sock.

Do you look for something to put on your knitting needles as soon as the weather starts to turn cool?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Making Pickles

I confessed to a friend, Pat, recently that I had never made jam.

"What?", she said, "You, of ALL people, should be making jam!  You are a farm girl!"

Sister, this FARM girl grew up in suburbia. 

I did have enough farm visits to relatives to know where milk came from, to appreciate that something had to die so that I could eat roast chicken and know that nothing I could buy in a store could come close to my grandmother's apple butter. 

My grandparents were the original homesteaders that many "back-to-the-basics" folk are now trying to emulate.  (In fact, I think Ma and Papa would really get a kick out of the homesteading blogs that I follow and be amazed that people are having to research how to grow potatoes.)   My own mother grew up in "hard times" but she raised her own family during the "good times" when everything suddenly became available in ready-made form and families had the money to purchase all of their groceries.  I'm sure at one time, she would have made pickles, jams and preserves, but I don't recall it and the knowledge of this art was certainly not passed down.

So...I mentioned to hubby that I thought I would make pickles this year.  Thus set off a never ending discussion (which could be called debate) on what we would pickle, how we to pickle, what equipment we needed to pickle....and so on.  I quickly tired of pickling before we even started.

My teenager can eat a 1 litre jar of dill pickles in 2 days.  Hubby calculated how much we could save by pickling our own.  It was becoming evident that this pickling idea was not going to disappear and it was going to be a family project.

So, this morning, we were at the hardware store buying jars and tongs.  Then, to the grocery store to buy pickling spice and cider vinegar.  Then, to the vegetable stand to buy pickling cucumbers, garlic and carrots.

There we were, a family of three, working together to make dilled pickled, carrots and green beans for the first time.  Boiling water, knives and hot glass jars all in close proximity. 

Did I say "working harmoniously"?  No, I did not.

I'm glad to say that no one was hurt in the making of these pickles.

We are all proud of our production though.  We may do it again.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Blueberry Cake Recipe

Okay...I just KNEW when I posted that picture of the Blueberry Cake last week that I really should be typing out the recipe.  It's only fair because I've taken so many recipes from other blogs
(like Our Forest Haven).

But, I really didn't have the time to type it out and recheck it for I thought....

HEY, haven't I already admitted that THIS IS NOT A COOKING BLOG?

But, Val asked and I'm happy to share.  It's good and it's quick.  I've been making it for about...ahem...35 years (I know, you had NO idea I was that old, did you?)!!!!! 

During the blueberry seasons of my youth, my sister and I would spend hours out on Blueberry Hill with a canoe and our bathing suits and pots and Tupperware and friends.  There were always a few of these cakes made during the season.

This is picture of my recipe card. (Note she called it Squares, but it's the right recipe). The card is filthy from use and time spent in baking chaos.  It's my sister's handwriting.  Aren't these old recipe cards just precious family mementoes?  I have some recipe cards with my late mother's handwriting for recipes I'll never make, but I couldn't part with those cards that she penned.  It keeps us connected.

Blueberry Squares
1/3 cup margarine or shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup of milk
1 1/2 cup blueberries
(1 tsp grated lemon rind - optional)

Cream together margarine and 3/4 cup sugar.  Add vanilla and eggs.  Beat until fluffy.  Add dry ingredients alternately with milk.  Pour half the batter into oiled 9x9 pan.  Cover with mix of berries, 1/4 sugar (and lemon rind).  Pour remainder of batter over berries.  Bake at 350F for 45-50 minutes.