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="">

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Chicha Morado

This post took about a year to get from the planting stages to the product! Last summer I wanted to grow the Three Sisters which I wrote about HERE, and was especially excited about the famous Maize Morado corn from Peru. It turned out to be an extremely tall plant as well! After raccoon damage, I gleaned 1.5 pounds of dry corn kernels.

I used a compilation of several recipes, and was thankful that my mom sourced me some quinces last fall, which she cut into small pieces and froze with some sugar. I should have re-hydrated the corn, because I got almost no liquid purple juice from the first boil. Since the kernels were still intact, I decided to try a second boil, which produced more juice, but got re-absorbed somewhat during the cooling time. The flavor was less intense, so I didn't do a third boil. The kernels were still not used up, so I decided to eat them like a cooked breakfast cereal. Pretty good! Next time I make this, I will re-hydrate the dry corn and then pour off the purple juice while it is still hot. It seems like a lot of gardening and cooking for such a small reward otherwise!

I added the lime juice and sugar before serving, and I must say that the drink was very festive! The cinnamon, allspice, and cloves really added a lot of flavors, similar to a mulled wine, but with no alcohol. I served it with my birthday cake: Chocolate Turron with chocolate fudge topping. Delicious!

In addition to the cake and chicha morado, the birthday dinner featured an appetizer round of Tequenos with avocado cream. This delicacy is originally Venezuelan, but Peruvians are crazy about them as well. 

Since Peruvian cooking takes a lot of prep, I served the main course on a different day. This is Vegetarian Arroz Tapado with Peruvian rice. Now that I know how much time it all takes, I could probably serve all of these things at once. They were certainly well-received!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Red Bud Jelly

Imagine my surprise when one of my Facebook friends posted about making jelly from the flowers of the Eastern Red Bud tree! As you can see by the faint, yet prolific, fuchsia hue around my backyard, there are many flowers to harvest for such a project!

So I set about gathering six cups of the blooms. It was a little sad to strip the trees, but this tree is pretty invasive, and I gathered from the ones where I don't necessarily need more seeds to take root next year. 

You pour six cups of boiling water on top and steep the flowers for 24 hours. The infusion results in this incredible shade of pink!

Kind of fancy-looking in a wine glass, and I *may* have added some Malfey gin con limone after I sampled the taste of the pure juice. The juice was delicious both pure and enhanced! The juice does have a tiny bit of a bean after taste, which is not surprising as the tree belongs in the bean family.

The jelly was easy to make. I used this recipe. The jelly took a few days to really set, so have patience. I put it in the fridge a few days to speed the process.

Delicious product enjoyed on some home-made bread with butter! Yum! The taste of the jelly is not as distinctive as the juice, but sweet and light. You can't beat the fun pink color!

Enjoy the warming weather, and hope that you are safe and healthy!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Quarantine Haircuts

Eight+ weeks into the quarantine has so many of us feeling a little bit too fluffy on top, so you can't help but feel a little bit jealous of the alpacas who have their barbers make a home visit on a Saturday morning!

They were highly grateful to be able to see again! It also happened to be 80* on that day, a weather pattern that quickly changed back to freezing a few days later.

It's nice to relax in the sunshine after a thorough grazing!

Our shearing team was adamant about social distancing, so we took the opportunity to rent a box truck and also replenish the hay supply that day. We took a picture of this road sign for our nephew, who is attending Purdue next Fall! We stop in Russiaville for the hay, but are looking forward to many trips to Purdue to visit and spoil him!

Our hay guy had a new "toy" to help load the hay into the truck with a few big lifts. What a relief it was to not need to move all the hay into the truck by hand. It saved so much time!

Finally, I joked with my colleagues that it wouldn't be ISSMA Qualifications day without me interacting with a UHaul! I really missed the students and the event, but it was good to be distracted by getting some work done.

Here's hoping you are enjoying a safe springtime. Till next time!

Friday, May 1, 2020

Knitting Lessons

Niece #3 learned how to knit last year and is quickly getting obsessed, like so many of us knitters. She gifted her younger sister a hand-knit headband and a SELF-DESIGNED knit shark for her 2nd birthday last Monday! 


The shark took three weeks to make, which is pretty quick considering she had to design, knit, sew together, duplicate stitch a mouth, and sew on felt eyes. I am so impressed!

Nice detail with the white belly! Marine biologist in the making, for certain! It turned out super cute!

She really wanted to knit a hat, so I shipped her some purple worsted-weight yarn, size 8 circular needles, and a pom-pom maker for her birthday (which I forgot about in August... ooops!). We set a FaceTime date, and yesterday we started a hat. I didn't know that she didn't know how to purl yet, so we skipped a ribbed brim in favor of one that will curl up. I am loosely using the Beanie pattern from Charmed Knits by Alison Hansel.

The hardest part of knitting in the round is getting the stitches arranged in the same direction before joining the stitches into a circle. Looks like she passed the test! Now she has to fight through 5 inches of knitting before she has to decrease. And it looks like Auntie E forgot that you need double pointed needles to finish the top of the hat. Time to send some more supplies. What should I add to spoil her? 

Happy Creating!