Monthly Archives: January 2013

broken

I think we broke the planet – again*. Last week at this time it was -15F (aka -26C), or maybe -18F, I don’t remember exactly. Tonight? It’s 58F. 58F (14C) after sunset, on the second to last night of January. This weather is so broken.

No soup and bread tonight. I doesn’t feel enough like winter. And honestly we ate soup about 4 times in the past 8 days when it was below zero.

Instead I’m just frustrated by the weather. I could go on and on about climate change. But I’d just get myself all worked up and flustered. Other people have said it better, with stronger, more persuasive words. If you’re interested in some reading I’d recommend Eaarth, Life on a Tough New Planet. Bill McKibben is a fellow Vermonter and is working hard to educate people about climate change.

Sometimes I feel like I’m doing nothing, but the fact is I’ve made a lot of personal changes already. I hope you have too. I’ve gone beyond compact florescent bulbs and plug bars to kill vampire charges. All my veggies, meat, and half my starches are grown locally. I drive a car that gets 45mpg, but I only drive it as far as the bus stop. No, the bus is not convenient (even if I love the knitting time) but I hope it makes a difference.

The biggest problem with personal changes is they’re personal. What works for me might not work for you. If you live in AZ growing your own veggies might be a horrible mistake environment-wise. But I hope you’ve made some changes too. Certainly not all the same as mine, and that’s fine. It’s a big planet, but it needs all our help.

*not that we broke it again, we’ve just had one big break I’m afraid. Just that I find myself thinking these words again, and again.

calcium

Growing up with chickens I know we gave them calcium supplements from time to time. I remember the bags of oyster shells. That’s not something we’ve had to worry about much with our birds. I sometimes wonder if it means there’s more calcium in the soil (and thus the plants) that our Vermont birds forage for all summer.

But in the winter sometimes the birds get thin egg shells. There is calcium in their pellet food, but it can be a good idea to give them additional calcium, which they can choose to eat if needed. Instead of buying oyster shells Neil and I decided to try something different.

eggshells

Eggshells. Clearly this is why the layers need so much calcium. Why not give it back to them when we’re done with those eggs? First I dried the shells at 200F in my oven for about an hour. Then I put them all in a plastic bag and crushed them up fine.

crushing eggshells

This does several things. Cooking the eggshells dries up any remaining moisture, and probably should kill any bacteria*. Crushing them makes it easier for the birds to eat. It also makes the shells not look like egg shells anymore. The last thing I want to do is give my birds the idea of eating eggs…

crushed eggshells

All those eggshells above (about 2 weeks’ worth at 4 eggs a day, so maybe 50 eggshells total) gave me somewhere between 1 and 2 cups of calcium supplement. Which I put in a tray (separate from their food) over by where the birds like to lay their eggs. We’ll see if they like it, or just spill it everywhere…

*not that there should be any bacteria since we wash them when they come in from the coop. But it can’t hurt.

sweet raisin muffins

This is was one of those times when I swear I was just going to follow the recipe. But then I didn’t have any yogurt, so I was going to need to sub in milk. And Then I thought some raisins would improve the muffins. And since I was adding raisins anyway, what if I just changed up the spices too? And they called for molasses and brown sugar. And seriously? Brown sugar is generally just white sugar with molasses stirred into it… I suck at following recipes as written – almost as much as I suck at following knitting patterns as written.

Sweet Raisin muffins are a riff off the sweet wheat muffins in Joy of Cooking. The recipe may include whole wheat and raisins, but there’s enough sugar to keep them from being bland. Also I’m using that white whole wheat flour from King Arthur’s again. I love that stuff…

sweet raisin dry ingredients

Ingredients
1.5 C white whole wheat flour
1 C all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 C milk
1/2 C molasses
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C veggie oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 C raisins

Preheat the oven to 375F and line, grease (whatever) your muffin tins. This should make 12 normal sized muffins, which I think is 36 mini muffins? I made a tray of each because I don’t have two trays to make all one or all the other…
Whisk together the two flours, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.
In a second bowl whisk together the egg, milk, molasses, sugar and veggie oil. Once those are combined add the raisins and lemon juice.
Now fold in the flour one half at a time, mixing until everything is just blended.

This batter is a little thicker than some muffin/quick bread batters. I used a big soup spoon to scoop it into the muffin tins, aiming to make each one about 2/3rds full.

Pop the muffins into the oven, 10ish minutes for the minis and closer to 15 for full sized muffins. You can check them with the standard toothpick in the middle trick. If it comes out clean their done!

sweet raisin muffin close up

Done, and tasty.

Spinning project

I’ve been participating* in a rare breed spin-along hosted by Joanna of the Knit Spin Farm podcast. Participating is a loose word as I’m the slowest spinner ever when I’m on a knitting deadline (and I’m always on deadline from now to next August)

eight colors shetland

But I’ve had this lovely shetland in my stash for ages and I’m glad to finally be spinning it up. I got 2oz of 4 colors at the NH Sheep & Wool festival back in 2009. I overdyed half of each with henna first, but the henna was old and the colors were mustardy yellow. Not exactly what I was looking for. However that mustard turned out to be the perfect base for overdying with red food coloring. The combo gave me those deep orangey reds above. And the color is saturated enough that even the charcoal black fiber shows some of the dye color.

I’m spindle spinning these fibers and plying them back onto themselves to create sport-ish weight two ply yarns. Not sure what I’ll do with them, but I’m thinking colorwork, gorgeous earth-toned colorwork.

Peasant food

Sometimes soup and bread is a pretty affair, with well lit photos and a plan.

peasant soup

And sometimes the soup is just a mix of veggies, leftover chicken, and some stock. And then the beer bread crumbles.

But soup and bread is still filling, warming, satisfying. It is satisfying. It is exactly what I need for a hearty winter meal. And apparently I’m not the only one since Sweetfern Handmade has a great little post on winter soups right now.

So go ahead, eat like a peasant. It feels sooo good.

Balanced

Before I start in I want to point you to a guest post I have on the Rock & Purl blog right now. Ruth is one of my best designer friends and when she asked me to guest blog for her I was very excited. That post telling you about my favorite season is kind of appropriate to today’s post as well…

In the winter, have you noticed how the nights may be long, but the moon is often so much brighter than it is in the summer?

winter moon

Turns out there’s actually science behind that. The moon moves opposite the sun*. Thus in the winter our days are short and the sun’s watery rays stream through the southern sky. This is when the moon is highest in the sky. Because it’s arc is higher up we actually have more hours of moonlight than we will next summer. Add to that the reflection of moonlight on snow and our night’s don’t merely seem brighter, they actually are brighter.

It’s as if the moon is trying it’s hardest to make up for the lack of sun. Not that it’s helping with the cold any…

*I haven’t checked all these facts. But I got them from my cousin, and he’s a planetary scientist. I assume he knows what he’s talking about.

Webs!

I was in NH helping my mom sort and clean last weekend. We made really good progress and finished up all our goals before noon.

We looked at each other and I asked “now what?”
Mom responded, “Want to go to Webs*?”

She may not knit, but my mom knows exactly what I like. And I LOVE giant yarn stores! She drove and I knit while we chatted all the way there. It’s a fairly industrial looking area (and yes, the Blue ATM in their directions actually is a good landmark…)

Webs was everything I’d hoped it would be. Just the store front is big enough we actually lost each other among the shelves. I do not kid, I was browsing the yarn went I got a text message from Mom saying she’d lost me… Then we went back into the warehouse

Webs of course

So. Much. Yarn.

I was there for some very specific yarn, Valley DK for a second pair of Play Time mittens. Overall I was very restrained. I picked up some purple __ that my mom adored because she needs a new hat. The only thing going directly into stash are the 3 skeins of Hempathy in a dusky rose color. I’ve wanted this yarn every time I see it in person. I think I got enough for a summer top of some kind.

modest stash acquisition

Purple, more purple, white, and dusty pink. The color scheme here seems to have overloaded my camera a bit…

Webs, America’s yarn store- in case you’re reading this blog just for the chicken posts…

Knitting Retreat

I’m wicked excited to announce that I’ll be teaching at a knitter’s retreat next fall! The retreat is being hosted by my friends at Grand View Farm.

grand view animals

The retreat starts Friday night with a trunk show of my designs and Vermont wine tasting. Over the next two days I’ll teach three sessions covering the skills needed to knit my Grand View Gansey. These skills include the channel island cast on, diamond and twisting cables. They’ll all be condensed into a pair of fingerless mitts so that by the end of the weekend you will have completed a mitt (or two) and learned all the skills necessary for the Gansey. In between classes I’ll be available for knitting assistance as well as joining in for other retreat activities.

texture large

September sits on the cusp between summer and autumn and is a perfect time to experience the rolling countryside and small family farms of Vermont. Besides knitting time, the retreat will include a nature walk with me and Kim. Knitters will also be welcome to visit the farm animals and the fiber studio on site. Off site activities include antiquing, horseback riding, farm visits, dining at chef owned restaurants, and attending a country fair in Tunbridge, Vermont.

To see the details and register for the retreat head over to Grand View Farm’s site! Grand View is a small B&B so this will be an intimate retreat, but we also have some spots available for day students.

Tomato soup and grilled cheese

This is a total cheat – but we all need an easy way out once in awhile. The tomato soup is from a can, and it’s not even home-canned.

tomato soup and grilled cheese

Grilled cheese can be thrown together while the soup heats up. The only thing we do that might be special is the slices of apple in the grilled cheese sandwich, or sometimes garlic. But it’s still soup and bread, and it’s still a tasty meal.

tomato soup and grilled cheese 2

Honored

Stacey over at Knit Picks (yes, that knitpicks) gave me a shout out this week. In fact she’s suggested you nominated me in the About.com Reader’s Choice Awards.

I’m completely floored and feel very honored. I don’t know how me and my knitting projects (and my chickens) earned this. It’s a good thing this is a blog so you can’t see me blush. If you’re interested in voting I would be even more honored. Maybe I could be convinced to post embarrassing pictures of me blushing bright red or something…