31 August 2009

chicken + leek + ginger noodle soup

Tomorrow I'm moving into my new apartment down in the cities. Today I'm making restorative chicken noodle soup to prepare for the event. 

Here's my my recipe:

one homegrown chicken (without feathers)
a pile of carrots
a big onion
a thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced
two leeks
two bay leaves
half a bulb of garlic
a pile of celery
a few shallots
garlic chives
three giant handfuls of noodles
salt to taste
top with fresh chopped garlic chives 

Of course, I make a chicken broth first, and then dice up new veggies for my finished soup. The secret to this soup is the organic chicken, leeks, garlic and ginger. The ginger flavor is absorbed into the meat. It sweetens it somehow, and also adds a bit of a zing. Hopefully, you can find some of these ingredients in your garden. 

Trust me, this is the soup for you if you're feeling under the weather . . . or if you think you have a rough few days ahead. 

Prepare yourself a pot and "comment" me in the morning. 

30 August 2009

apple moon time

August is a month for feasting. All things that were in bloom in May are now coming into fruition. It's time for canning, jellying, baking. . . and eating. The apple trees that stand at the end of my garden are almost folding, collapsing under the weight of the fruit on their branches. 

The birds haven't discovered the fruit yet (or perhaps it isn't ripe enough) but before long they will come and it will be hard to find an apple without a few bites out of it. Not that I mind the birds taking their share, there is certainly more than enough to go around. 

Last week I tried my hand at making cold pressed apple juice. Unknown to me, an apple/sausage press made of cast iron has been resting in the corner of our barn. The press belonged to my grandmother, Arlene. We inherited it when she passed, and it has sat forgotten for years. 

Not this summer. 

My dad and I pulled it out, scrubbed it down, fixed it to a table out in the milk house, and set to work. I harvested apples from all around the yard. We have six different types, the names of which escape me. 

All I can tell you is that the tree on the far end of the yard, the one with apples the color of pomegranate seeds, has fruit that tastes like ambrosia. Sweet and spicy with a sharp tang at the end. This tasting of apples has become an art for me . . . like sampling fine wine. 

I think we used ten, five gallon buckets of apples to get seven quarts of juice. My dad said his arm felt like it was going to fall off from the effort it took to turn the crank on the fruit press. That's a lot of work for 100% pure, organic, cold-pressed apple juice. My mother and I sealed the juice in jars and set them in a hot water bath. 

Now I'll have a little bit of summer, a memory of this apple moon time, for when the months turn dark and cold. 

(That is, if I can keep myself from drinking it all right now.)

P.S. This purse is a free download from Berroco. I knit mine out of Rowan Yorkshire Tweed Aran. It took just over one ball of yarn. 

I'm going to stuff it full of apples.

25 August 2009

barn notes : hen house

In my teenage years I probably wouldn't have admitted that I lived on a small farm in East Central Minnesota close to the Wisconsin border. There were times (when I was in grade school) when summer break meant that I didn't go into town (unless it was for the carnival) for weeks at a time. 

My brother and sister and I - "we"- spent all our time playing with the neighbor kids, which included a tangle of first and second cousins who lived up and down the road. We built forts, swam in the creek, caught frogs, tamed feral kittens, swung from tree branches, ran wild, sang campfire songs, played "ghost around the house." 

The farm was our playground. I can remember climbing fences and skipping across the pasture. Scampering up trees when we saw the bull. Creating secret societies with our imaginations. Societies that included intricate forts built in the underbrush, secret handshakes, and, of course, "us against them"

The "us" was usually the girls, and the "them" was almost always the boys.

Anyway, there were always cows and cats around the farm, the occasional farm dog, but never chickens or egg-laying hens. A lot has changed since then. I couldn't imagine my parents' farm now without the chickens. 

I've become a bit of a naturalist when it comes to our chickens. There definitely is a hierarchy to chicken behavior. A pecking order, so to speak. They don't just jump off the nest and shriek for no reason. 

Here's what I've noticed. The roosters prance around and trumpet most of the morning. They toodle-dee-doo at the quality of light, passing cars and wandering humans. They toodle-dee-doo at doors and car wheels, the shadows of hawks gliding overhead and empty water buckets. 

The hens are always clucking, always pecking at the ground. Their gooble-dee-gucks start in the hen house. Whenever they lay an egg they explode off the nest with a fury of goobles. I think they're bragging, announcing their accomplishment. A warm egg in pale turquoise blue resting next to another the color of hammered copper. 

Out of the six nesting boxes built into the hen house wall one is the favorite, vied after by all. One is always filled with a rainbow of eggs, a pleasure to collect. An inspiration every day. 

Whatever the case, I can always tell what type of egg day it's going to be by the volume of noise down at the hen house. 

Sounds like we'll be having omelets tonight. 

22 August 2009


Here's the deal folks: today I mowed a path through my garden with the lawnmower. Are you disappointed? Are you concerned? 

Remember how confident I was in May?

It's August, I tried to tell myself. You always feel like raising the white flag in your garden every August, so don't blow a gasket. 

Well, I didn't exactly blow a gasket. It's just that I'm the sort of person that likes things tidy and MY GARDEN IS FULL OF WEEDS. Now, last year my garden wasn't full of weeds, because I was here all summer to take care of it. This year I was gone at school for June and July so my family had to take care of it. 

They took really good care of it. June and July were dry months, so the priority was watering, but it's August now and the nasty weeds have taken fierce root in my garden and the only thing I could think to do (save just faint in the shoulder high bramble of stinging nettle, stink weed and CREEPING CHARLIE) was pull out the lawnmower, baby!

I mowed over the lettuce patch that had turned bitter, bolted, and was chocked with weeds AND the vacant shallot bed (the shallots are curing nicely in a dry place), but I was careful to avoid my beautiful leeks and zinnias. 

Some things are still worth fighting for. 

Right now I'm thinking about my purple potatoes from Peru and my broccoli plants. I know I planted them somewhere near the end of the garden. Then there's the zucchini . . . it's gone AWOL, but I know it's somewhere amidst the tall grasses. 

These plants will need a more patient hand - not a lawnmower - and I'm prepared to give them that . . . tomorrow. 

Shesh, I'm having a beer. I think I deserve it. 

Here's something to celebrate : my finished Chevalier mittens. I thought I was going to keep them for myself, but now it turns out they're going to be a gift to a future cousin-in-law. 

Isn't the color lovely? 

Hopefully I can knit myself a pair before the cold wind blows. I will need something to cover my gnarled and blistered hands : the evidence of my garden in August.

20 August 2009

the winter wind

 The autumn wind, and the winter wind - have come and gone
And still the days, those lonely days - go on and on
And guess who sighs his lullabies - through nights that never end
My fickle friend, the summer wind

Frank Sinatra / Summer Wind lyrics

Ah, yes. The winter wind is coming. It's still August, but the realist in me hasn't forgotten what December and January are like here in Minnesota. (Not to mention March and April.) So I started a pair of mittens for myself. This pattern comes from a wonderful fiber artist in Finland. Her blog is called Made by Myself and this pattern is titled Chevalier Mittens. 

The girl has a way with cables and design. Just the header on her blog will prove my point. This particular pattern is a free download, so have at it. None of us knitters should suffer from cold hands this winter. 

One cool thing about the pattern is that when you download it you get the Finnish and the English version. I can't read Finnish, but I like studying the language. The chart with the cable pattern is the same for both the Finnish and the English version. It's nice to know knitting can break some language/culture barriers. 

(Perhaps all diplomats should take up knitting.) 

Hey! Check out the yarn I'm using for these mittens. It comes from Winterwind Farm located in Battle Lake, MN, home of our friend, Sandy, and her flock of CVM romeldale sheep and angora goats. This yarn is a blend of CVM romeldale wool and mohair. It's soft and pliant, perfect for these cable mittens.

Hopefully, I'll be sharing my finished mittens in a few days. Currently, our farm is getting more than its fair share of rain. (Remember our drought woes a little over a month ago?) Well, over the past thirty-six hours we have gotten over five inches of rain. 

Five inches! 

Nothing I can do but keep dry - stay inside and knit!

17 August 2009

special recipe

These mittens came out of nowhere. I swear it. I think all of you got a sense, especially after my last post, that I was committed to knitting socks. 

(Many many many, unfinished socks.)

But here are these mittens. 

Let me explain. 

So, I started out knitting socks. (I guess I was cheatin' on the second pair of socks - which I was cheatin' on the first pair of socks with - cause I cast on for a third pair of what I thought were socks (in tandem with the other two pairs) a few hours after I posted my last blog. 

But something happened mid-knit. My usual method for making socks is a simple toe-up wrap-and-turn trick that I adjust depending on the yarn I'm working with and the gauge I'm looking for. Well, I got past the toe (at this point I still thought I was making socks) and was happily knitting along with this bulky yarn, when, instead of fitting it over my toes to test the fit, I started pulling it over my fingers and bobbing it around happily. 

My creative u-turn didn't stop there, the next thing I quickly decided was that these new "mittens" definitely needed to be turned "inside out" so that all the lovely bumps showed instead of the neat "v" stockinette stitches. 

Before long I was deciding on the placement of the thumb. (Thank you Elizabeth Zimmerman.) And then, after three or so more inches, switching out needles ( US 7 from a US 10.5) to finish off the cuff in a tight 2 by 2 rib. 

Not to sound too mythic, but the second mitten practically leapt from my needles fully formed, like the Greek goddess Athena when she jumped out of Zeus's nose. 

Now I know I'm taking liberties. (But I just couldn't help it.)

Anyway, these mittens make me feel like a goddess. I could hardly stop slipping them on yesterday as I prepared a Sunday dinner for my family. (Not Greek, authentic Mexican.) 

The tomatoes are the first from my gardens and (just to keep with the theme above) if this humid, wet weather keeps up, they should be spilling from our ears soon. 

15 August 2009

skeletons (or unfinished socks) in my closet

You know how it goes . . . there is that one pair of really cute socks in the holiday issue of your favorite knitting magazine that you just have to knit. You sprint out to buy the yarn and the needles and then huddle in your favorite knitting chair with a cup of tea and your thumbed-over pattern to cast on. 

You quickly make progress, because the pattern is challenging and engaging. You mess up once, even twice, perhaps a half dozen times, but you rebound quickly because you just have to have these hot little numbers on your feet. 

You imagine that you will be wearing them soon. Perhaps in a cute pair of patent-leather Mary Janes. The ones that were made to show off socks like these. 

But then something happens. You didn't mean to be unfaithful, but another pattern catches your eye, and besides these socks require concentration and it's always nice to have another project handy that doesn't require concentration. The two projects complement each other and add a hefty bulge to your knitting bag. 

Yet despite your best intentions, the Ziploc with the cherry red socks gets lost in the bottom of your knitting bag. Despite the blogs you posted with optimism in the spring and all of that quoting of Shakespeare. 

The socks stay unknit. And then August comes around. 

Didn't Shakespeare say something about being unknit and undone? Didn't one of his characters rant about it? Google says no, but I, as a knitter, could easily imagine it and take the liberty of twisting his words to suit my situation.  

Anyway, the real problem here is not these unfinished socks, per say, it's the fact that I want to start a different pair of socks and that just seems wrong to me. Feels like I'm stepping out (indeed in another pair of socks) or just being plain lazy. 

Perhaps I shall knit both socks in tandem. 

But that makes me remember the adage I just imagined: she who knits two pairs of socks at the same time ends up barefoot. 

Wise words. Wise words. 

Although, it is only the middle of August and there is a lot of flip-flop weather still in store for us. I think I'll take the risk (and not even think about the tale of the cricket that cast on and quit all summer.)

10 August 2009

something to show

My morning started with a cup of coffee and a blank notebook page. The coffee was for courage and cognizance, while the notebook page was for the many "t0-do" lists that I want to complete over the course of August. 

Ever been there? 

I have so much to do. So many things that I should do and many more things that I just want to do. 

The lists go on and on. First there's the packing. I think I may have to sort through all the boxes that I've been storing in my parents sauna and actually (possibly) move them out. Turns out everyone would like to use that space again for its designed purpose. 

Next, I need to sort through my many piles of books and decide which I actually want to haul down to the cities with me and which I'd rather not carry up three flights of stairs only to sit on my bookshelf all year. 

The Jane Austen is coming. 

More that just lists today, I actually have something to show: my finished After Hours Shawl by Cynthia Josepth and Briar Rose Fibers

That's my mum as a model. We snapped these pictures in the pasture with her spring lambs. aren't they friendly? We noticed a phenomenon this year. After we separated them from their mothers, and after a few days of sad ba-baaing, the lambs became very curious and affectionate to us. 

That's Tucker standing behind my mother in the top photo. He was trying to nibble on the fringes of the shawl. 

09 August 2009

julia & julie

Things were so hectic after Shepherd's Harvest Festival this past spring, that I didn't get a chance to write a post about my mother's success in the fleece competition. 

This year we entered the fleece of a ewe named Julia. The story of my mother (Julie) and this particular ewe (Julia) has been unfolding over the course of the history of this blog. Julia, the sheep, was bottle fed as a lamb, making her one friendly critter to visit in the barn. 

You can't walk ten steps across the pasture without sensing her trotting presence behind you, or crouch to mess with anything in the barn without turning to find her fuzzy nose pressed into your ear. 

Julia has a soft, stone gray fiber that spins up beautifully and knits up well in cables and patterns. Remember the cabled Bella Mittens I made this spring? 

That was Julia. 

At Shepherd's Harvest, Julia's fleece won a first place ribbon in the pure bred class category and took second place all-around. We knew Julia's fleece was beautiful, but that's more than we expected. 

Congratulations Julia and Julie!

That's Julia grazing up above with the other sheep in the pasture. You wouldn't believe how long it took me to get her to stop pestering me and to pose prettily for that shot. Above is the basket of prize winning fiber, which was shipped off last week to a fellow fiber enthusiast. 

I'm currently spinning a batch of chocolate-brown fiber for a still-as-undecided project. Despite the fact that I'm a bit fuzzy about what I'm going to do with it, I will be posting photos of the resulting yarn soon. 

06 August 2009

boot camp

Hoorah! I survived my summer intensive intro to graduate studies in Architecture. There were moments when the stress levels were high and I thought for certain I was going to 'crack up' (to put it nicely), but I made it and now I'm back on my parent's farm for a month of frolicking in the garden, chasing chickens and playing tag with the sheep.

We're currently doing some renovations to our century-old farmhouse. My brother, who as some of you know, also studies architecture, has designed an addition to my parent's kitchen and library that includes two roots cellars below grade to store the mountains of potatoes, squash and pumpkins we will be harvesting in the fall. 

There's a reason for two. One will have a dirt floor, the other poured concrete. This will make the conditions in the cellars different, allowing for different produce to be stored there. Also some veggies and fruits (perhaps like some people you know) do not like to be kept in the same room together.  Apples are one example that comes to mind.

This image of the model my brother built shows the upper level of the addition. The boxes on the side are framed windows that hold up a running wall of bookshelves. We're just about ready to knock down the wall dividing the old part of the house from the new. Should be chaos. 

Anyway, this morning I climbed up onto some of the construction debris and posed for this photo in my favorite pair of hand knit socks. I am happy for this break. There are baskets of fiber that need spinning, books that need reading and mountains of produce from the garden that need processing. 

I'll certainly keep you posted. 
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