Sunday, October 11, 2020

Ramble On Rose

Back in early August, The Farmer decided to add one more alpaca to the herd. We really needed a friend for Dark Star, and it would be nice to possibly have another option for breeding. We headed to a farm about an hour from us, where the owners had several boys for sale. 


Introducing: Ramble On Rose! He was the most handsome alpaca, and his name was already Ramble On. Adding a "Rose" sealed the deal to keep the farm names aligned with Grateful Dead song titles.

In true Shady Grove Alpaca fashion, the ride home in the rental cargo van was hilarious. This alpaca was all about the selfies and humming non-stop. Downtime from photography sessions was spent peeing a half dozen times in the back of the van. Nothing a quick hosing down couldn't fix upon arrival.

Ramble is very well-tempered, leash trained, and easy to work with. He is also super friendly when he gets a visitor in the barn.

At home with the new siblings! The boys immediately started a vigorous neck wrestling contest. The life in the barn has completely changed. Ramble is very vocal and loves to hum and announce whatever is going on. So cute! 


 Personally, I can't wait for the spring shearing and adding another color to the Shady Grove color palette. Happy knitting!


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Yarn Along - Slouch Potato

It's been a while. Turns out teaching school is hard this year, and it takes considerably more time than in the past. But teaching is going well, in spite of being at a new school and dealing with all the pandemic restrictions and accommodations. And I did take some time away to knit a hat recently!

I adore the knitting patterns of Anne Hanson. She has a weekly weekend pattern deal, and two weeks ago her Slouch Potato hat really spoke to me. It calls for DK yarn, which I have a lot of in our Shady Grove Alpaca farm stash.

My size 3 needle is made of brass. The oils on my hands must interact with the brass, because the patterned part on bottom turned light blue. It's only slightly visible in the photo above. Fortunately, most of it washed out.

Pattern: Slouch Potato by Anne Hanson

Yarn: Shady Graove Alpacas Suri DK in Moonstar, Size 3 & 6 needles

Started: September 27, 2020

Finished: October 3, 2020


Of course I needed to pose with the lovely lady who supplied the fiber. Moonstar is pretty skittish, so there was a long haul of walking around the pen making ineffective noises to get her attention! 



In this final picture, you will notice a new alpaca in the background. I hope to finally blog about him tomorrow.

As for books, I managed to read two books by Fredrik Backman: My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You Sorry and A Man Named Ove. Both feature very quirky main characters, possibly on the autism spectrum, who have hearts of gold. They were lovely to relax to. 

Check out the other Yarn Along projects and reading lists on Ginny's page. Till soon!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Baking and Food Updates

Hang on, friends, it's going to be a long post! I have so many windows open on my phone and computer, "saving" all the recipes that I have used to make our life delicious at home for the last few months. It's time to close all the browsers and save the info someplace more useful. It's still the pandemic and there is still a baking trend that I am a part of!

I found a new recipe for the Sachertorte. I really like how easy the chocolate shell was to apply and smooth. My comment for improvement would be to add additional apricot jam between the layers of the cake, or split the layers into more layers for more jam to sink in. This cake was moist and delicious and lasted most of a week at room temperature.


The popularity of regular challah bread at our house was lapped by even greater excitement about rye challah! I used Molly Yeh's recipe and promptly needed to purchase more caraway seeds. The nutty texture of the bread is delightful. The only downside of the recipe is that it only makes one loaf. I was smart and froze half immediately before it disappeared.


Some people want me to believe that cream cheese and olives is the best way to enjoy this bread.

The next cake we had to make and eat was pistachio cake with cream cheese frosting. Check the sweetness after adding each cup of sugar in the frosting. I used a lot less than recommended and still thought it was well-sweetened. The cake was outstanding!

Around this same time, we started harvesting our first arugula greens from the garden. 

And also were happy to have some radishes, though they quickly got woody.

I thought I would make a strawberry pie with this sourdough discard pie crust recipe, but it was such an unusual and savory flavor that I made a veggie pot pie instead. I highly recommend warming up the leftovers in the oven to avoid soggy crust syndrome. Super yummy, even if you substitute some veggies for others that you have on hand.

Impulse purchase of plantains? Make some plantain chips with olive oil and salt in the oven for 20 minutes!

Hands down the most delicious food I have ever eaten was this almond torte with strawberry sauce. I skipped the rhubarb because I don't really like it and didn't have any. This will be our birthday cake moving forward. WOW!

I once again had to save the gooseberries before the chipmunks sampled all the unripe ones. Instead of freezing the green berries right away, I stored them in the fridge for a few weeks and they ended up turning red after all!

Instead of making jam, I decided to try a gooseberry chutney instead. It was a nice change to the normal sweet stuff. The type of vinegar you use makes a difference, so I recommend not changing to, for example, apple cider vinegar...

I found the lemon lavender scone recipe my friend won the Indiana State Fair with a few years back. This was to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. I used Ponderosa lemon juice and rind from our own lemon tree.

New beets at the farmers market inspired an experiment to duplicate the salt roasted beets at the Purple Pig restaurant in Chicago. 
I cut and roasted the beets for 30-ish minutes with olive oil and salt at 350* in the oven. I mixed them up once or twice during the baking. Then I smeared peanut butter on the bottom of a plate, piled the cooled beets on top, added salt to taste, crumbled chevre and chopped pistachios on top. Oh my YUM!

Not pictured in this culinary wonderland was the peanut butter granola that The Farmer made, the "artisan" sourdough bread that turned out nothing like the video, but tasted amazingly of molasses, and an emergency peach crisp that I had to make when a box of peaches wouldn't ripen but started spoiling. 

Have a delicious day! 

Monday, July 27, 2020

A Week of Raccoons with a Possum Chaser

On Tuesday evening of July 14, our darling chicken Athena was broken out of her coop by a band of raccoons. She had many moments of blog glory, but THIS POST was the one she was famous for. Needless to say, the marshmallows in the trap were no longer grabbing the attention of the bandits, so we switched to eggs. Eggs roll around and cannot be stolen through the bars, so we trapped a few trash pandas as a result. It resulted in some longer road trips, as raccoons need to be taken far away from home so they don't find their way home.

Wednesday night, we caught a little one. I took him to a lake. Hopefully he remains, ever happy to wash his food before eating. You really can't complain about a raccoon's table manners. 

 Thursday night we caught a full-sized animal. This one led to a discovery of a delightful state park I had not visited yet. I would have been happy to live in those woods!

Friday night, we had another smaller, but almost full-sized version. This one got to live in a Nature Preserve, but was reluctant to leave the trap at first. Fortunately it did run after sensing freedom, but I really did not want to worry about being bitten by a rabid one...

 Saturday night, I hadn't set the trap until dark, which meant that I saw (a small??) one scuttling away in the beam of the flashlight. While I was gingerly placing the egg in the trap whilst swatting so many insistent mosquitoes, I heard little scratching sounds behind me near the chicken food container. I finally opened the container to have my gaze met by a set of masked eyes. I hastily shut the container, wondering what I should do next. Before deciding to hold it in the container, I looked again, and TWO small raccoons were enjoying the buffet! I loaded the top of the container with as many bricks as I could find, thinking that I would free them in the morning at the Nature Preserve. Alas, they escaped, but we did get a GIANT one instead. That one was rather hyper and off like a flash.

After Sunday night, there was a small one in the trap. I was driving to Ohio to see family on Monday and dropped him in a woods halfway there. As far as I think, there is at least one small raccoon still on the loose, though signs of him have disappeared.

The trap was set but empty for a few days, before this opossum guy showed up on yesterday morning. It probably has a string of siblings and a mom hiding out in the woods. Apparently they like raw eggs as much as their raccoon friends. So the saga continues. I saw a set of twin fawns come out of the woods in front of the house over the weekend as well. Time to think about strategies to keep my ripening tomatoes from becoming wildlife food.

How are your garden pets, I mean, pests?! At least I don't have a ground hog!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Hard Re-Set - Yarn Along

June had me drifting around a bit, where my only hard and fast goal was to walk 190 miles, which I accomplished. I am so grateful that the Yarn Along is on the 1st this month. (Check out the link!) It really allowed me to reflect on what I wanted and needed to do next. It was an all-day process that encompassed a few other topics besides reading and knitting, but I think this next month will be fun and productive.


So for reading I decided to mix a little pleasure (orchard planning) with a lot of business (teaching orchestra at a new school). We refurbished our outdoor seating earlier this summer, and I just parked those books out there on the coffee table in anticipation of some major porch sitting as it gets too hot to work in the garden the next week.

For knitting, it's time to stop dilly-dallying. I'm picking up my Amiga and my Storytime Scholar sweaters for some finishing this time. They both need those long collar-button band combos where I dread picking up the correct amount of stitches and then knitting for a long time. There are also so many funny sweaters where I placed the buttonholes in the wrong place, so we're looking at some possible re-knits and/or fantastic button placements.

For my own accountability, I will also be setting up some early winter gardening projects, exploring a few local hiking spots that have been on my list, and getting back to practicing viola. I hope my screen time goes down, with the exception of some additional blogging.

Happy Summer!

Friday, June 26, 2020

Fast Finishes

Well, a few things did find their way off the needles recently. I haven't gotten an update on the Street Vest from the recipient, because the sweater arrived with a broken jar of jelly all over it. And then there was a heat wave! So maybe this fall I'll do the full write-up of this fun and super cute vest.

I started this remnant hat as an example for my Niece #3 when she started her hat on May 1st. I did not do any shaping at the top and just did a three-needle bind-off instead. I'm looking for someone to gift it to... One does not often see a hat in June, but I thought the colors coordinated quite nicely with the blooming wild roses in the yard.

Finally, these washcloths just needed the ends to be woven in. I took care of this during a Zoom lecture during a conference I attended this week! I do like Zooming with the camera off in the privacy of my own home (on the porch) while doing something relaxing and fun. I might just remember the information a bit better.

With the parade of finished objects started, I hope to dust off a few others nearing the finish line. Stay tuned, and hope you are also enjoying some porch sittin'!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Fencing Lessons

Three cheers to fantastic neighbors who are willing to share their knowledge, time, and grandsons who need to learn how to build a fence! And here's a lovely silver lining to the pandemic stay and home situation: actual time to accomplish goals on the farm. In this case, we built a fence around the new pasture space that we created last autumn. 

Planning: a profoundly useful stage. We spent a beautiful and cold Saturday in early May measuring out the space and discussing the pros and cons of placing the fence in a variety of ways.

Once we measured it all out, our neighbor's grandsons got to work pounding rebar in all the spots where we planned to place the fence posts. The white bucket in the foreground has a hole in the middle. It gets placed over the rebar, and someone else then takes a spade and cuts a line all around. To finish off, about a foot of grass and dirt is removed to prepare the next step.

 Well, actually, first there was shopping for supplies! Fence posts, fencing, barbed wire, steeples, fence clamps, and 2500 pounds of concrete.

THEN it got very exciting! Just enjoy those alpacas ogling the tractor with the augur! I giggle a little bit every time I look at this picture! The aforementioned holes were used to guide the augur to the correct spot to dig the post hole.

The grandsons are waiting for perfect tractor placement and holding wood blocks used to stop the tractor wheels from rolling during the drilling.

All great tools have their short-comings, and the augur needed some human guidance in order to drill a straight hole. Each hole is about three feet deep.

Behind the augur-guidance team, we had to clear the dirt that fell back into the hole with the post-hole digger. This amazing college student caught up with the high-tech augur team. Except for the last hole...

After the auguring was complete, one of the grandsons got to drive the tractor home. I love that someone so young has already been given such an important responsibility. Our young people are capable of so much more than we often expect of them. This young man is an excellent driver already!

This next step caused my OCD to go into high gear. (Actually, who am I kidding! The precision I desired with the somewhat nebulous outcomes were already making me a little too crazy for my liking! Ha!) We decided that the fence post needed to be 60 inches above the ground, which meant that the hole had to have a very precise depth. The amount of time it took for us to take dirt out of the hole and dump it back in to get the post to sit 60 inches above ground is almost comical in retrospect! Fortunately, we did eventually get better at the process. A high water table and super soggy earth in the area where we placed the last few posts tried our patience once again. 

Once the post was the correct height, we started filling the hole with quick-crete and water, mixing it up, and then repeating. Most of the posts needed 4-5 bags of quick-crete, before the very top was re-covered with dirt. 

First post complete! It was a major victory, in spite of looking crooked with all other posts! We learned to check the long distance lines after that.

We made the horizontal brace posts one inch longer than the space between the posts so that the pressure between the posts did some of the holding.

Small pieces of wood screwed into the vertical posts provide a ledge that the brace post rests on.

All the posts are in, and all the braces are attached between the posts. Next up: barbed wire.

Next we strung the barbed wire between the posts. The grandsons are using this contraption to stretch the wire to increase the tautness. Once it no longer budged, we steepled the wire to the posts.


The barbed wire was used to make a straight line between the wooden posts and show us where to place the metal posts. The metal posts were placed +/- 8 feet apart. I don't have a picture of us pounding in the metal posts since I was the post holder. Post pounding had its own set of issues, including going in crooked, going in too far, being placed too far away from the wire... But we established a pretty good rhythm after a while. The Farmer attached the barbed wire to the post with fence clamps.

Similar to stretching the barbed wire, we had to stretch the fencing also. One of the reasons we chose such heavy duty wooden posts held in concrete was to increase the amount of pressure the corners of the fence could handle. I can't begin to explain the mechanics of this more elaborate stretcher that included a tree because I was off doing another task. It was fun to see the fence get more and more taut.  

First side of the fence is complete, with the exception of added the rest of the fence clamps to the metal posts. While it seemed like so many things were going to end up looking crooked or lacking in right angles, this turned out so much better than I imagined. Everyone really did a great job maintaining high standards! Fun fencing fact: you will notice the fencing attached on the outside of the wooden posts for strength and on the inside of the metal posts so animals have a harder time pushing it down. I don't think alpacas will be ornery enough to challenge the fence, but who knows what type of animal might live our here in the future. (Did someone say llama? My dream!)

The alpacas love their new space and are often romping around between bites of grass.  

We rearranged the move-able fences to create an easy transition between the barn and the pasture. The new paddock area also serves to make them easier to collect in a small space at the end of the day.

Our neighbor had many stories about how long (or short) the period of time is from when you finish a fence to the day that you must repair it. In our case, it was a mere 18 DAYS! (Insert sad face here.) We had a rough windy day last week and one of the dead Ash trees from the neighbor's farm fell.

Fortunately, it did not take too much time to clean up the mess, uncrimp the fallen fence, and re-attach it to the posts. The barbed wire broke, and so we are awaiting a lesson in splicing it together.

This experience was an amazing learning process. I got more detailed than I had planned in this post so that I could remember the details for the future. The fence is beautiful, and we could not be happier! Many, many thanks to the crew that helped make our dream come true! You are truly THE BEST!<3 p="">