wool workshop

Just returned from a weekend up at Cold Antler Farm (a popular blog written by a woman named Jenna about life on her farm in upstate New York).  I was up there for a wool workshop to learn how to spin and prepare wool from sheep to sweater.  Have dabbled a bit here and there with spinning but never actually had a clue what I was doing and was great to actually have someone who knows what they’re talking about teach you how to do it and answer any questions you might have (in my case probably thousands).

We were each given a drop spindle to practice on and I ended up enjoying it even more than I had expected!  Learned it all from washing, to carding and finally spinning.  Couldn’t have asked for a more perfect winters day- a farm tour, snow outside (finally), the woodstove blazing inside, lots of delicious food and drinks to enjoy, spinning and chatting and best of all in fantastic company.  The workshop definitely surpassed all my expectations- thanks Jenna!

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tool mama

Had an idea brewing over the winter.  Have kept gardens for a few years on and off but last year I became pretty enthusiastic and quadrupled the size of my garden.  (Keep in mind that’s not saying much- the plot was pretty tiny before)  In any case, I made my garden area bigger and dug a higher fence for it (we had a woodchuck living underneath the shed) so I was pretty pleased with myself.

As I said, I’ve garden here and there, off and on, so I had some great success with some veggies (beans, radishes, cucumbers, summer squash) and not so much with others (onions, pumpkins, broccoli).  From reading around, it looked like some of the plants I had less luck with required a longer growing season (I was a LATE starter and didn’t even get my seeds into the ground until June- yikes!).

Anyways, long story short I came across this article (http://www.motherearthnews.com/Do-It-Yourself/Multipurpose-Plant-Grow-Light-Seed-Starting-Bookcase.aspx)  over the winter and was instantly inspired. I immediately decided this was what I would do for the garden this year- start some of the slower growing seeds indoors (much) earlier in the season.  Plus, I just bought a new house so it would make a great multipurpose bookshelf in the off-season.

When I went to actually begin construction, I realized there wasn’t really much in the way of instructions in this article…  So I came up with my own… wish some help from my dad.  Here are some pictures at different phases of building process.  Hey this total novice wood worker is pretty proud!!  Next project, to build a chicken tractor… (slightly more intimidating!)

le jour d’amour

Happy Valentines Day! However you choose to celebrate, or not, hope that you are able to indulge in some delights of the season today.  No major updates here aside from the fact that Yogurt making on Saturday turned out to be a success!  That makes 2 out of 4, so my numbers are going up.  The principles of making yogurt are actually quite simple (heat some milk, let it cool, add a couple spoonfuls of yogurt and wait).

The waiting part is what has thwarted me in previous yogurt-making attempts.  You are supposed to try and hold the temperature steady in the mixture for about 6 hours.  I have tried both using a crock-pot for this and oven.  Everyone has got to find their own method of doing things, but for me the oven has been very successful (2 out of 2!) and crock-pot has been an epic failure (0 for 2).  I’ve tried both ends of the spectrum with the crock-pot as well- once with my yogurt becoming a scorched solid mass and the second, it just remained milk.

Onwards and upwards- it’ll be the oven for me in the future.  And for the present I’ll enjoy the creamy whole-milk goodness from the cows down the road!  Maybe I’ll even throw in a few strawberries for some V-day indulgence!

where has winter gone?

A month between entries- not a great habit to get into!  But I’m new at this and it’s been a pretty hectic month here (my mother recently undergoing a pretty serious spinal operation) so I’m gonna cut myself a bit of slack.

So I’m sure you’ve been eagerly awaiting to hear what happened to the lye-heavy (I think) soap that I created last month???  Well I attempted to ‘re-batch’ it by basically goggling that phrase and seeing what I found online.  First I checked the ingredients, then added a bit more water and fats (in same ratios as original recipe) and finally I crumbled up my concoction and heated it over the stovetop.  Worried that the mixture might get too hot or burn, I then changed my mind and decided to cover the pot with some foil and placed it in the oven.  Long story short- the mixture never fully melted and I think a lot of the essential oil scent might have escaped in the process…

BUT…. it appears to be soap!  It certainly aint pretty, but after sitting for a couple weeks I tried it out and no slimy feeling (apparently slimy means that means it’s not ready / or there is still too much lye).  Have been washing myself with it for a few days now with no ill effect yet.  So success or failure?  I vote success but you can be the judge.  I figure all learning is a step in the right direction, right?

Well it’s ramping up to be an exciting few months in this neck of the woods and I’ll try to update often as I prepare for all the hope and possibility that spring brings with it.  I’ve been making plans for my 2 gardens (one at my parents house and creating plans for one at my new home!), I just began bee school last week and plan on starting my first hive this spring and finally my lovely BF got me a spot at a chicken workshop in April that might send me home with a few chicks so looks like my household will quickly be expanding.  Think this’ll be enough to keep me out of trouble for a few months!  Oh and in addition to that am busy knitting some baby blankets for two of my very best friends who are expecting their first babies!  More on all this later – life is good!