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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:

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

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.
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...

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Seed planting

Saturday, April 7th was bright and sunny.  I decided to dedicate a few hours to the green house.

Last summer, John, Joshua & I took the little "farm truck" and went over to the rock ledge on Riverview Farms (the 782 acre hunt club that adjoins our property on 3 sides).  We collected limestone slabs to use in building a rock oven.  Well, the stones have been standing there in a pile ever since.  I decided to put what we had collected into use as the floor in the greenhouse. John said he didn't mind. We can always go collect more rock.

Our "farm truck", with right hand drive.
Our order had come in from Baker Creek Rare Seeds.  I'm always excited about planting!

This year's seed order.
The herbs will be staying in the greenhouse.  I want to get some herbs & small fruit trees going in the greenhouse.  I want an interesting, relaxing growing environment.  Some place to sit and listen to the birds & smell the dirt & plants.  An over sized terrarium.

My friend Karna hosted a tea party last week, and it was a beautiful day for it.  I went to my friend Beth's house so we could car pool.  Then we went to Karna's.  What a nice day.  The food was good, and so was the companionship!

The pergola put interest shadows on our faces.
I also spent time with the ladies, working on the Hardy Homesteaders raffle quilt.  It's almost finished.  We just need to finish the border.
We were quilting ( and eating cake).
The brush piles from this past winter are slowly disappearing.  I hate tripping over sticks!  My right leg doesn't lift very high, thanks to my Parkinson's (and some old damage after a riding accident).  So as I'm walking along those damn sticks trip me up!  I make piles & burn them when the weather cooperates.

Chris and Joshua have been working on the Hobbit House interior.  Josh & I got the exterior waterproofing finished.  Now it looks like an avocado. Once the interior cement is completed, the door and window can go in.  Then I can tile the floor & paint.  I hope to have everything ready when Tammy and Ariel get here in May.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Birthday thoughts

Today, I turn 58.  Wow!  I seriously never thought I'd get make it this far...

Not that I ever considered leaving this world.  Thankfully, I'm just not plagued by depression.  I've had my share of sad times, like after my father died. But I've always bounced back to my happy self.

I've had my share of illness and injury.  Yeah, I have Parkinson's disease.  Yeah, I have 3 blown discs in my lower back.  Yeah, I have pain in my joints...

But, I live in a good place with my family that loves me.  I have good friends.  I have sufficient income to meet all my needs.  (And not bragging here, just stating a fact) I have more income than I need.  Our home & land are paid for.  And all the vehicles are too.  No debt hangs over our heads.  Our pantry is full.  Our well never goes dry.  We have good soil, our garden grows well. Our animals are healthy, excepting Peanuts diabetes.

My extended family is large, but distant.  And that's ok.  Modern communication allows me to keep in touch with everyone.

As I sit here sipping my coffee at 5 AM, I feel blessed. Blessed with love.  Blessed with plenty.  Life is good.

My family

Extended family

 More friends

My home

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Back to winter weather

We've had a very mild winter, so far. Last weekend we had heavy rain & very high winds.  Several building in town lost shingles, and a few trees are down.  We didn't have any damage to our property.  Our neighbor to the south had a tree come down near her cabin & garage.
Large tree

Large tree that missed all buildings.
After the windy weather, Joshua and I got the first layer of rubber applied to the Hobbit House.  It's now a nice green color.

And the, winter made it's continued presence known... It snow on Saturday night 3/11. We got about 3 inches.
Cricket in the snow

Bunny tracks

I took these videos Sunday morning.  The dogs really enjoyed the walk.

We canned some venison yesterday.  I started out by removing all the connective tissue from the meat.  After 2 hours, my hands were exhausted.  Josh took over.  He ground the meat, packed the jars & loaded them into the pressure cooker.  This was his first canning experience.  Now he knows exactly what to do.

I finally finished a sweater I started 2 years ago.  I'm not happy with the collar... I've worked on it quite a while, and I may re-do it yet again.  Or I may just put the buttons on and accept it the way it is. Earlier this year I scored a great find, a collection of buttons, at the local flea market.   I remember moving my stash of pewter buttons while I was sorting all the buttons.  Now I can't find them.  Dang.  Anyway, I've put the sweater aside while I search for buttons.
The back of the Fair Isle sweater for me

The front of the sweater.  No buttons.
 My next project is a double knit Fair Isle vest.  A new challenge for me.  The vest will be completely reversible. Here's a link to my Ravelry page for this project.  Camilla, a Fair Isle Vest