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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Early June rains & mushroom picking

Well, June is finally here.  That means it's chanterelle mushroom time.  We are blessed with many patches of these yummy mushrooms.  I looked on line this morning & the going price is $100 a pound!  Wow!

So, Ariel and I get out our boots, long pants, and tons of bug spray.  Now we are ready for mushroom hunting.  And we head out...
Ariel & Cricket head down the driveway.

Peanut comes along too!
We found a good amount for the first day.  We saw many small ones too, so we'll go back for them in a few days. Here's our first day's haul.
Mushroom & a crawfish cast carapace.
Notice the crawfish carapace?  Ariel found this at the edge of the pool where the spring starts.  I was very happy to see this, because I'd never seen any crawfish or minnows in the spring.  Since this one is rather large, that means our little spring is a viable ecosystem.  I feel very good about that.  Since our spring doesn't flow all year long, I assumed the crawfish & minnows were only located further down stream.  I'm glad to see I was wrong.  

We've also been working on the interior of the Hobbit Housse (now christened Underhill). We're using a faux painting technique.  As the cement is rather rough, we wanted a smoother finish.  So, we are applying tissue paper to the walls & ceiling to give it a more finished look.  I like it, it's rather like the look of finished plaster.  Here's a Youtube video on the technique.

Tissue paper wall texture technique.  Here' how the first step is looking.
Sleeping alcove with tissue paper on the walls
 Rather green, I know.  But this is NOT the finished color.  The alcove will be a deeper sage green.  The sitting room will be a rich, golden color.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Family visit, grand-daughter is here for the summer

Our daughter, Tammy, and grand-daughter Ariel arrived last Thursday from Georgia.  Tammy will be leaving today or tomorrow.  Joshua & I will be taking Ariel back to Georgia sometime in mid-July.

While we're all together, we been having wonderful "family time".  We did some shooting....
My family

Peanut LOVES shooting.  She is wondering where the critters are...

Ariel and Cricket investigated a large tree that came down during some wicked wind we had...




We had a nice cook-out on Memorial day... No pictures.  Duh!

Yesterday, we did some dyeing. It was a lot of fun.  Friend Gena came over.  We dyed, ate, talked & dyed more.
Gena and Ariel

Gena, John & Joshua checking out the water tank (with tadpoles)

Tammy and Ariel collecting flowers for sun dyeing



We each did a silk painting.

Tammy's lily

Gena's koi fish

Ariel's interesting lady smelling flowers

My steampunk White Rabbit
Then we did some sun dyeing (it's really sun "painting", but heck, I don't name these products!).
Ariel's shawl
Ariel's second piece of the day


My rectangular shawl

This is a fun technique.  Wet the item to be dyed/painted.  Apply the desired colors.  Lay it in the sun.  Place leaves, flowers, branches... whatever on the item & leave it in the sun for a few hours.  The shadow of the objects leave an impression in the color intensity of the paint.  Allow the paint to "set" for 24 hours, then iron with a hot iron (no steam). We got our sun dyeing supplies at Dharma Trading Company.  In fact, all the silk scarves, clothing, silk painting kit & sun painting supplies came from Dharma.

Then we played with our favorite technique.  Microwave dyeing.  Again, wet your item to be dyed.  Lay it out & sprinkle dye powder on it, randomly or in stripes... whatever. Roll it up or crunch it up or wad it up... and place it in a ziploc bag.  Add a small amount of water.  Now put it in the microwave for 3 minutes.  IT WILL BE VERY HOT WHEN YOU TAKE IT OUT!!! Add some cool water to the bag. Now, swish it around.  Pour it out & refill the bag with cold water.  More swishing & refilling until all the excess dye is out.  Hang on the clothes line to dry.  Our results...
My yellow shawl


My blue shawl

Ariel's rectangular shawl

Another rectangle by Ariel

My greenish-yellow wrap

Tammy's tiered skirt

Tammy's dress
Dyes for these items were purchased from The Woolery.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Fermentation experiment, cheese making, chicks...

As promised, here's the follow-up post on my carrot experiment.

I found a recipe on fermented dilly carrots I thought sounded good.  Here's the link. Dilly carrots   I cleaned & sliced up 2 pounds of carrots.   I added the dill, garlic and brine.  Not difficult by any means.  The jars are now sitting in an out of the way, dark place.
Dilly carrots with pickle puck & pickle pipe in use.

A friend shared the name of a local dairy farmer who sells raw milk.  Hurray!  Andy Birdsell has been a dairy farmer most of his life. Joshua & I took a trip over to his place & got 3 gallons of milk.  $12.  Not bad for raw milk.  Friend Gena Stout took 3 half-gallons jugs, leaving me with 3.  So, I made some creme cheese.

I like making cheese.  It's not difficult & it tastes great.  I know I've discussed making cheese before.  I've discussed making Feta and Ricotta.  Here's some images from yesterday's session.

Bringing the milk up to temperature
The required culture

Here's how the curds looked after setting at room temperature for 12 hours

Suspending the curd to drain the whey
While the curd is draining, I had to decide what I wanted to make with the whey.  I usually use it to bake bread.  I wanted to make something different.  So today I chose to bake a cake.  I found the recipe on Pinterest. Farmhouse buttermilk cake recipe   King Arthur Flour is one of my favorites brands. I can always find that special item I'm looking for in their catalog.  And I buy their flour for my regular use.

I substituted whey for buttermilk.  Otherwise, this is the recipe I used.


Friends Karna & Gena & I have been dyeing lately.  Mostly indigo dyeing & shibori for them, hand-dyed skeins for me.  Gena will be making a presentation on natural dyeing for the Master Gardeners.  We had a good time taking pictures & dyeing skeins for that event.

Skeins just out of the dye pot are green. 


Skeins turn blue with exposure to oxygen
Indigo & cochinal dye pot

Our source materials
 Three weeks ago, I set the incubator up. I loaded in 30 eggs.  Over the past few days, chicks have been hatching out.  There are 10 little fluff balls running around in the brooder.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Arkansas flooding & disaster preparation

This past week we've received 9 inches of rain here at Big Rock Farm.  Thankfully, we haven't suffered any water-related issues.  We had standing water in the yard for a day during the heaviest rain. And we had standing water again yesterday.  This really doesn't cause us any difficulty.  We have to manage our water usage - our septic tank can't drain in such wet conditions.  There's no where for the water to go.... But once the standing water was gone, we're back to normal.

Many people in our area are not so lucky.  The town of Hardy had flooding on Monday, April 30th.  Here's a few pictures.
Hardy AR. Located on the Spring River

Hardy is located on the Spring River.  This is not a record level high for the river.  The bridge you see here in the center of the picture was built in 1983, after the previous bridge was washed away in a flood.  That was "the" flood.

Our friends live along the Spring River in the town of Ravenden.  Their yard gets flooded several times a year, but the house has never been wet.  Here's a picture of the water level sign by the bridge near their home.
Water level sign in Ravenden, AR. Located on the Spring River

The Spring River flows into the Black River.  The Black is in serious flood mode right now.  The towns of Pocahontas and Portia are being seriously fit.  People have been evacuated.  The local highway is closed.  We can't get to Jonesboro due to the flooding.
Pocahontas, AR. Located on the Black River

Road sign near Portia, AR. Located on the Black River  
 The White River is also flooding.  Batesville is also being evacuated.
Batesville, AR.  Located on the White River
Thankfully, our circle of family and friends are all safe and dry.  Many people aren't.  Having emergency supplies and a family plan are vital.  All the preparation in the world does you NO good, if you don't have a plan for using them.

My friend Dixie Gordon told me about Smart911 on Wednesday. I'd never heard of this service.  Local 911 personnel can access the data you've entered regarding you family, home, vehicle, medical issues & any animals/livestock you might have.  Here's the link: Smart911.com

My friend, Gena, and I had a booth at the local Ren Faire.  It rained the first day and was very windy the second day.   I think we earned enough to cover the cost of the space.  Just.  Anyway, we did talk to many people.  I enjoy showing people my spinning wheel, explaining how it works & how textile really effect our lives.  Most often, the kids think of Sleeping Beauty.  The men who stop by want to know how the wheel works & the women usually ask about colors & dyeing.  We pass out business cards & invite people to contact us if they're interested in learning spinning, weaving, knitting, crocheting or dyeing.

Me, in costume, spinning at the Ren Faire

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Fermentation of our home produce, kitchen equipment & indigo dyeing

My husband and I were watching a YouTube video a few days ago, discussing the fermentation of garden produce.  Here's a link to the video. Fermentation for Dummies with Doug & Stacy

In this video, Stacy discussed the system she uses for preserving her home produce.  She mentioned a fermentation starter kit, which really interested me.  So, I got on Amazon & looked for it.  We received our started kit yesterday.  Here's the link for the started kit.  Masontop's complete mason jar fermention kit

The kits comes complete with:
Pipes, pebbles & pounder

Fermentation guide
I'll be reading the guide & posting my experiments here in this blog.

When we moved here, back in 2006, I invested in some "kitchen" equipment from Lehman's.  We got a Big Berkey water filtering system, Big-berkey-with-black-berkey-elements



I haven't used the sauerkraut crock yet.  The water filter is in daily use.  The grain mill has been used, but not very often.

I've also invested in a butter churn this past Christmas, which I look forward to using.  (I need a new local source for raw milk). I bought one for my friend Gena Stout for her birthday, and one for myself.

On Tuesday, April 25th,  Gena Stout & Karna McFadden came over for a dye day.  We had a great time.  I dyed handspun fingering weight Cheviot wool and some commercial DK weight wool I had used for knitting kilthose in the past.  I used the "turkey roaster" to hold the skeins.  I sprinkled the dye powder directly onto the skeins.  I used Turkey Red, Pansy & Sapphire from the Woolery. The Woolery.com

They have a great starter kit.  Country-classics-starter-kit.html

Here's how my skeins came out.


Gena & Karna focused on the indigo vat, with dyes we got from Dharma Trading Company.  They have been studying shibori, the Japanese art of dyeing.
Indigo-dye-kit.html
Shibori is a fascinating technique.  The "original" tie dye, in fact.  The fabric to be dyed is sewn, tied and/or folded to produce the finished design.  The more complicated designs take HOURS of preparation.  A great deal of information on this technique can be found on Pinterest. Or you can choose from a great number of books.  I was initially introduced to Shibori while I was stationed in Japan (1985 - 1988).  Here's some of Gena's experiments...