March 28, 2010

Picture of the Week -- 3/28/10

Our kitty chillin' in the fiber pile.

March 26, 2010

Fiber Fun Friday -- Hot Pour Dyeing

Up 'til now I have only dyed unprocessed fiber and only 1 color at a time. Yesterday I decided to try something different.

If you've been following along, I have a major project in the works for the fiber arts competition at the National Alpaca conference. The due date for registration is May 5th. So far so good.

I have spun all the yarn I will need. It's an amazing blend of suri, huacaya and bamboo. I used a few different white pacas so the whole project feels like a group effort. :o)

Well, once that yarn was spun it needed something....specifically, color.

I thought long and hard about what I wanted and I knew that whatever I decided I wanted a multi-colored yarn. There are a few different methods to achieve this, but I had to pick one.

I choose the hot pour method of dyeing. Basically it boils down to exactly what it sounds like. You pour the dye on when the pot is hot.

It's a little more complex than that as you have to watch your ph and temperatures, but it's kind of like a free for all. Pour the colors you want next to each other and *pow*....multi-colored yarn.

It's by far the least messy and easiest form of multi-colored dyeing. At least I think so.

Eventually I want to try hand painting yarn. Maybe next week? Haha.

The yarn is now hanging in the basement to dry. I'm glad Jim didn't mind all the drippy water because it was waaayyy too cold to hang it outside.

It's hard to see the color variations in this picture, but there are pinks, purples and kind of a salmon color in there. I think it'll knit up really nice.

It's not exactly what I was going for, but I learned a lot and next time it should be easier and even better looking.

March 22, 2010

Recipe of the week -- Ham Loaves

Easter is less than 2 weeks away. Did you know that? While visions of bunnies and colored eggs may dance in front of your eyes, all I can think of is the Easter ham. YUM!!!

I love ham in just about any form. You can never go wrong with ham. In fact, if I had my way, we'd have ham for Thanksgiving too. That is a whole other issue for another time...

I've got a great use for leftover ham. I was going to save it for Easter weekend, but we are going to be gone the whole weekend so better to put it up now. If you're wondering, we'll be at our first alpaca show of the year in Fort Wayne, IN. Wish us luck! :o)

Anyway, the ham....

This recipe uses your leftover ham from Easter dinner (or any other time of year). I've tried making it with unroasted ham (straight from the package), but it just doesn't turn out the same. I guess it needs to be dried out a bit by the oven roasting. If you had a glaze or sauce on the ham, I'd cut off the outside edges before making this loaf.

This recipe makes 2 loaves. Bake one now and freeze the other for later. I've even cooked the frozen one straight from the freezer without any thawing. How awesome is that?

Ham Loaves

1 cup crushed butter-flavored crackers (about 25)
1/2 cup chopped green onion
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbls. lemon juice
1 tsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. pepper
Dash ground nutmeg
Dash paprika
1 1/3 cups leftover ham
1 lb. ground pork

Ham Loaf Glaze ingredients:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. ground mustard

Using a food processor or blender, finely chop ham. This is best done in small batches.

In a large bowl, combine the crackers, green onion, eggs, lemon juice, ground mustard, ground ginger, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, nutmeg and paprika. Add ham and pork; mix well. Shape into 2 loaves.

Place one loaf into an ungreased 9x5 loaf pan. Bake the ham loaf at 350* for 1 hour. Wrap the remaining loaf in foil and freeze for up to 2 months.

Meanwhile, combine the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes.

After the ham loaf has baked, remove it from the oven. Baste with the glaze. Bake 30-40 minutes longer, basting occasionally.

March 21, 2010

Spring has Sprung

The kids found these out by the garden.
There were even a few bees enjoying them as well.

March 18, 2010

The Mark of a True Farm Girl

I never dreamed that I would spend my life on a farm, let alone be happy about it.

I used to be a big city girl. I loved the crowds, the restaurants. I loved the fact that no matter which way you turned you could find whatever it was you were looking for. Everything was within reach. There were malls and malls and more malls with shoes. Lots of shoes. I like shoes.

I bought lots of shoes. Fancy high heels, strappy sandals, and even boots with 4 inch heels. (Totally fun since I'm already 5'11").
Somewhere along the way of big city life I met my husband. He is not a big city guy. He convinced me that country living wouldn't be too bad and dropped me here in the middle of nowhere.

The animals came later of course after I had gotten used to the idea of farm life. I constantly get the reaction from old friends and even family where they say "I never imagined you living on a farm?!?!"

I've come along way in 10 years. Today is in fact our 10th anniversary which I suppose has made me reflect on this topic.

I've come so far in fact that as I think of the old "big city" me I want to laugh at her. She was pretty selfish and crazy at times, but I envy her, her shoes.

I've learned to love every aspect of farm life. Of course some things are better than others. The art of homemaking especially fascinates me. I must have been a pioneer wife in a past life or something. :o)

The point of all this is that I've decided that the mark of a true farm girl is this...where do you take your fancy shoes? Do your shoes only get to see the office or a night out?

I realized that in the last few days I haven't bothered to wear my rubber barn boats out to do chores. Instead I've been wearing my shoes. The same ones that I wear to town or a 4-h meeting or even church (yes I've worn heels to do chores).

Yup, the mark of a true farm girl is that she is willing to walk in those pastures without a thought as to what is on her feet.

March 17, 2010

Fiber Fun Wednesday -- The Truth is in the Hat

If you've been following along at all, you know that I haven't been spinning all that long. In fact I've only had the wheel about 5 weeks (is that all??).

In that time I've spun quite a few skeins of yarn, but I haven't used any if them yet. I just keep looking at them. The first few are...well....not the best, but the last few have been good and a couple even great. I guess it's time to see how good they really are.

I am now starting the very first project with my own hand spun yarn. Yeah!

This is the beautiful skein of yarn I am going to use. It's a Merino/Bamboo mix in pinks and purples.

If you read last week's fiber post you may recognize it. It was still on the wheel then. The whole time I was spinning it, it was begging to become socks, but I decided to turn it into a hat. I want to wear the hat Easter weekend. I think I can have it done by then.

I've gotten a good start on it today. The edge ribbing is finished and I'm ready to start on the lace pattern in the hat. The original pattern called for double point needles, but ack! I hate those. So unforgiving on your hands and hard to work with. I do all my in-the-round work on 2 circular needles.

What do you think so far?

Knitting up this hat will give me a good idea how well my spinning is really turning out.

March 15, 2010

Recipe of the week -- The Ultimate Coffee Cake

I feel I must preface this with the fact that I DO NOT like coffee. I don't drink it, I don't make it, I don't like it Sam I Am. Oh wait, wrong story.

I do enjoy the smell though, which to me seems really weird, but hey, it is what it is. I love the smell of French Vanilla Cappuccino the most.

There is one good thing about coffee. It is normally served with a lovely cake appropriately enough named Coffee Cake. I would do almost anything to eat coffee cake including tolerating others drinking that disgusting black sludge.

Sorry if I have offended any of you coffee drinkers.

This is my favorite version of coffee cake. It's very moist and tasty.

Coffee Cake

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
3 cups plus 1 tbls. flour
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 container (16 oz.) sour cream
1 cup powdered sugar
4 to 6 tsp. milk

Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease a 12-cup fluted bundt pan; dust with flour. In a small bowl, combine baking powder, baking soda, salt and 3 cups flour. In another small bowl, combine the pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon and the remaining 1 tbls. flour.

In a large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat sugar, butter and 2 tbls. vanilla until creamy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Alternately beat in flour mixture and sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat just until blended, occasionally scraping bowl.

Evenly spread 2 cups batter in prepared pan; sprinkle with half of the nut mixture. Top with 2 cups batter. Sprinkle with remaining nut mixture, then spread remaining batter on top.

Bake cake 55-60 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes. Invert onto a plate to cool completely.

Prepare glaze: In a small bowl, stir powdered sugar, milk and 1/2 tsp vanilla until smooth. Drizzle glaze over cake.

I know it's a lot of steps, but it's worth it. This always gets rave reviews and is great for any type of casual gathering. You could even serve coffee with it if you want. I won't complain. :o)

March 10, 2010

Fiber Fun Wednesday -- Work in Progress

I swear I should have one of these signs floating over my head at all times because everything is a work in progress and I'm still waiting for the progress.

Let's start with an update on the incredibly ambitious project for Nationals. I already hit a huge snag and had to back up a little to get going again.

My beautiful Chu Chu is an amazing girl, but too much for this novice fiber artist to handle at the moment. I got her fleece washed and dried, but as I began to work with it, I realized it was a mess. It was her first shearing and there is nearly 2 years worth of growth in her fleece. It's veeerrryyyy tangled. There is no way I could get through it in the time I have, so......

On to plan B. No, I am not scrapping the project. Just revising it a little. It's now a combo of Jack, Misti, and Mario. All whites so this will become a dyeing project too. While I'm at it I'm adding just a hint of Bamboo. It'll be a 90% alpaca/10% Bamboo blend. It's actually carding up wonderfully. I'm trying to card all my batts at once so they are similar and I know I have enough.

For the skirt I need about 1200 yards of sport weight. I'm going to card up 1 1/2 pounds just to be absolutely sure I have plenty.

I haven't started spinning it yet so I'll have to let you know how it goes.

Next project....

The fiber studio.

You've heard a lot about it, but haven't been able to see it. Well, here it is.

It's more of a glorified craft room/office, but I am calling it the Fiber studio.

It's still a work-in-progress because it needs shelves in the closet and I still need some kind of cabinet/counter top for the carder. I'm really tired of carding on the kitchen island because no matter how careful you are fiber gets in the food. Yuck! I need to bring my wheel up too.

It's mostly organized at least. Plenty of room for my dyes and stuff.. It's even got a TV although I'm still not convinced that's a good thing.

I've also managed to find my sewing machine which means I can get some more cria coats made. Get your orders in now for those spring cria! :o)

Oh wait, you have to see the door. Isn't it pretty?

Last, but certainly not least....

My latest yarn. It is turning out to be the most consistent yarn I've spun so far. I already have a hat in mind for it although it keeps saying socks....socks....socks as it glides through my hands. I want the hat. We'll see who wins, me or the yarn.

March 08, 2010

Homestead Basics -- Herbs & Spices - Storage Tips

Herbs and spices are staples at nearly every meal. They just make things taste better. If you're limited on space you can have just the basics like Parsley, Basil, Oregano, Thyme, fresh ground Black Pepper, Rosemary, Paprika, and Cinnamon. These are the ones I use most often. If you have more space, the sky's the limit. I have so many herbs, spices and blends that they take up 2 cupboards!! They all get used though and dinner is always tasty because of them.

Now that you've got them, where do you keep them?

If your spice collection sits neatly beside and/or on top of your stove, you've committed spice manslaughter.

How To Tell If Spices & Herbs Are Good To Use

If you have no expiration date listed on the package and you’re not sure when you purchased the seasoning, here are a few tips to help figure out whether or not your herbs and spices are stale or still good to use:

  • Look at the color, is it still rich and vibrant? Old spices and herbs can lose their color over time. If it looks old and faded, it probably is.
  • Crush or rub the herbs and spices between your fingers. Is the smell strong like it should be? Is it weak or musty smelling? If the smell has lost its punch, the herb or spice is likely too old to cook with. If it still smells pretty good (just not as strong as it should) and you’re in a pinch, simply use more than the recipe calls for (you’ll need to taste test to determine how much more).
  • Taste a bit of the spice or herb, you can usually pick up on the staleness right away. If there’s no taste to it, it’s old and not worthwhile to cook with.
  • Is the spice clumpy or cakey? Chances are moisture got into the container and the flavor may be reduced. You can break apart the clumps and use if the taste is still good.
How Long Can Herbs & Spices Be Stored

Spices don’t spoil or go bad, but they do lose strength. Here’s a general guideline for storing your herbs and spices…

  • Whole Spices & Seeds: 3 to 4 years
  • Ground Spices: 2 to 3 years
  • Leafy Herbs: 1 to 3 years
  • Seasoning Blends: 1 to 2 years

Storage Tips

  • Keep the herbs and spices in a cool, dark location. It’s common to see spice racks above the kitchen stove, but the heat affects the quality of the herbs and spices so this isn’t the best place.
  • I like to buy herbs and spices in bulk (if I don’t grow them fresh), portion them into small spice bottles for ease of use, then store the rest in individual ziploc bags (keeping them in their original packaging). Press out as much of the air as possible, seal the bag closed, then stack them all in a solid rubbermaid (or tupperware) container (something with a good fitting lid). I keep this container in the pantry and refill my bottles as needed.
  • It’s suggested to refrigerate spices from the red pepper family (paprika, cayenne and chili powder) to prolong their flavor and freshness.
  • Make sure to keep the herbs and spices dry, don’t use a wet measuring spoon to dip into the bottle and don’t hold the bottle near steam.
  • As you buy herbs and spices, try getting into the habit of labeling the bottles and packaging with the purchase date–this will help you determine whether or not your herbs and spices are still good to use or if they’ve gone stale.

Quick Tips

  • Try growing your favorite herbs, snip them directly from your kitchen herb pot and you’ll never get fresher.
  • Dried herbs are stronger than fresh. If a recipe calls for fresh herbs and you only have dry on hand, a general rule of thumb is to use one-third the amount asked for in the recipe. For example, 3 TBS fresh would be 1 TBS dried.

March 06, 2010

Top 5 Signs Spring is Near

The top 5 signs that Spring is coming soon to Tomorrow Farm:

5. I am assaulted every morning by an insane amount of birdsong. Generally this is a good thing, but before my morning caffeine fix.....

4. What was once a giant pile of snow is now an ugly mud pile that has a strong magnetic pull to any and all children within a 1/2 mile radius.

3. I have an annoying urge to clean and organize. It's only annoying because I'd rather be spinning.

2. The pacas are leaving the barn of their own free will for the first time in 4 months. They are also now using the outside toilet.

1. And the top sign Spring is close.......

Nick is peeing on trees again.

March 05, 2010

Be Careful What you wish for....

Just 2 days ago I was making a blog post about my overly ambitious plans to skirt, wash, card, spin and knit a skirt for the National Alpaca Conference by May 5th. I was doubting my sanity and wondering if I'd ever have the time to get it done.


Shortly after that I took a tumble down the stairs.

Don't worry. Nothing's broken, but things aren't exactly perfect either. The bruises to my back and foot are enough to keep me in my chair most of the time.

This has allowed me to get a huge start on my project. All of Chu Chu's fleece is now skirted and washed. I was even able to start carding up some of it and gave about an ounce a whirl on the wheel. It's spinning up great even in my novice hands. Considering I've only finished 4 skeins of yarn, I'm doing pretty good I think.

So be careful what you wish don't know how you'll end up getting it.

March 03, 2010

Fiber Fun Wednesday -- I may be crazy, but it'll be crazy fun

There is nothing more crazy than waiting 'til the last minute to do something. Now, technically this isn't the last minute, but....let me explain.

I decided today, completely out of the blue, to make something for the fiber arts competition at the National Alpaca Conference. The deadline to enter is May 5th. Maybe not too terrible if I wanted to make something simple like a scarf or a hat. Even a pair of socks might be okay.

Unfortunately I can't make it that easy, I decided that I am going to make a knitted skirt. The first I've ever tried to make.

It gets better.....I'm going to spin up the yarn for it myself. Again, not too bad, but....

The fleece I've decided to use is still in the bag from shearing. It hasn't even been skirted yet.

Now do you think I'm crazy?? I know I do, but I always seem to do my best work up against a deadline. I hope that holds true in this case.

The alpaca who is lovingly donating her fiber to me is named Chu Chu. She is a beautiful medium brown suri who at the moment is really filling out with her first pregnancy. She looks so cute pudging out in the middle. She's bred to the amazing WWR Rockstar's Golden Sun (yes his daddy is Our Accoyo Peruvian Rockstar). Can't wait to see that baby. :o)

I'll keep you up to date on the progress and together we can see if I make this crazy deadline.

March 01, 2010

Recipe of the week -- Chicken and Cashew Fried Rice

Oh my gosh, oh my gosh!! I made this the other night and it was AMAZING!!!

I've never been that good at any type of fried rice recipe, but this was easy and turned out unbelievable!

I am a magazine junkie, just ask Jim. He is constantly rolling his eyes at me when we get to the checkout lane because I just have to get a magazine or two. I tell him it's why he eats so good. I get a lot of recipes from magazines or at least ideas for recipes since they don't always fit our tastes.

This recipe is a perfect example. I ripped this out of an All You magazine (sold at Wal-mart exclusively I believe). The date on the magazine is Jan. 22, 2010. I actually have binders of magazine pages sorted out by category of recipes I want to try. This one just happened to be sitting next to my chair waiting to go in the binder when I decided to make it.

Boy am I glad I did. It was wonderful and it has so many possibilities beyond the way it was written up. I'll share some of my thoughts after the recipe. (The original recipe used fresh ginger, but I never have that around. I substituted ground ginger in it's place)

Chicken and Cashew Fried Rice

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced thin
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
3 tbls. vegetable oil
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 oz. snow peas, trimmed
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 cup chicken broth
4 cups cooked white rice
3 tbls. chopped roasted cashews

Combine chicken and 2 tbls. teriyaki sauce in a bowl and set aside. Warm 1 1/2 tbls. vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring, until no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a clean bowl.

Add green onions, garlic and remaining vegetable oil to skillet and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add snow peas, chicken broth and ginger, cover and cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in rice, chicken and remaining 2 tbls. teriyaki sauce and cook, stirring, until rice is heated through. Sprinkle cashews on top and serve immediately.

This was soooo good I snitched Jim's leftovers the next day for lunch. I rarely eat leftovers so this was a big deal for me.

Now I think you could substitute just about any veggie you would like in this. My first thought was broccoli in place of the snow peas, but mushrooms, shredded carrots, water chestnuts, or any of your favorites would work. Most should cook about the same except the broccoli which will take a little longer to become cooked through.

I know it's really hard to make good Chinese food at home and I'm sure this isn't very authentic, but it is really good so enjoy a little taste of China at home.


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