Monday, October 31, 2011

halloween 2011

Bwa-ha-ha. It was a cold and snowy afternoon... wait, that might be the start of a different story.

A very scary cabbage chopping picture. 
Heads rolled.

The 4-H club had scheduled a gleaning for the past weekend, but the weather was a little uncooperative. A heavy frost this morning (and another scheduled for tonight) meant the crops couldn't wait too much longer, so just a few of the kids went to the farm -- owned by one of the 4-H member families -- and gleaned cabbage and cauliflower this afternoon.

I won't need to eat cabbage for a while. As Secondo observed, the smell was enough to curb your appetite, so that's my new appetite suppressant tip. Go into a muddy field with a little bit of snow (all the better to nail your fellow gleaners) and chop off some cabbage heads. Works wonders for that, as well as any excess aggression you need to release.

Still enough time when they were done to go out trick-or-treating:

Primo was a cow vet (get it?);
Secondo was a carrot;
Terzo was -- well, that one's obvious.

And the Great Pumpkin didn't fail us. For the eighth year in a row, a carved and lit pumpkin was mysteriously waiting for them on the porch upon their return.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

sweet sixteen

The frequency of my posting lately is a window on the hectic pace of life around here in October. Today was no exception. First of all, we wake up to this amazing October morning sight:

Unbelievable. Equally hard to believe, this kid turned sixteen:

He requested apple pie in lieu of birthday cake. 
I had a heck of a time getting
the candles to stand up in the pie crust.

He is turning into such a wonderful man, that I try not to mourn the passing of his childhood too much.

Meanwhile his younger brother celebrated his Rite 13 ceremony at church this morning (can't have just one milestone in a day!). I love this service, though it never fails to make me cry. By far the most poignant part is when the older kids -- in this case, his brother -- lead the younger ones away from their families, across the aisle of the church, to symbolize the start of their journey to adulthood.

It's official, if we didn't suspect it already: now we have two on their way.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

procrastination rarely pays

Last Sunday at church, my LSH noted that I hadn't yet submitted my little words of wisdom for the booklet given each year to the 13-year-olds. He suggested I write about procrastination. My submission was along the lines of: "Procrastination will cause you unnecessary stress, but every so often, produces a work of brilliance."

Today was a golden example of the first part of my advice, however. Due to absolutely jam-packed schedules, we hadn't yet put our rams in with the ewes -- which means that we won't have lambs until the beginning of April. A little late, but definitely less stressful for the shepherd in some ways. Still, we needed to get them in TODAY.

Then along comes a weather forecast straight out of the North Pole in December.

We waited a bit, until we realized that conditions were only getting worse by the minute. We finally hauled ourselves out and moved as quickly as is possible with frozen hands, ears and noses. Hooves were trimmed, the last few coats were mended and put on, ewes and rams were put in assigned pastures with cozy sheds and dry hay, and we hightailed it back inside.

No pictures possible of the sheep.
I haven't seen them all day.

Primo has been nagging me since he got back from Indy that we needed to get ready for winter. (Much in the way that I come back from a fiber festival raring to get started on fibery ventures, he came back raring to start on farm chores.) I pooh-poohed him for the last week.

Because really, who on earth could have predicted snowball fight conditions in New Jersey in October?

Friday, October 28, 2011

friend ratatouille

The other night I made friend ratatouille, and it was absolutely scrumptious.

To make friend ratatouille, you need to start by having a few generous friends with healthy gardens. Mine never recovered from Hurricane Irene, but luckily Val and Amy have gardens that are still trickling along. They were kind enough to gift me with eggplant and tomatoes, respectively.

Ratatouille is a lot like vegetable soup: you can just toss in whatever veggies you have (within reason), cook it down, and it will come out pretty good. For my friend ratatouille, I started with a chopped onion and sauteed until golden in olive oil. I added a minced garlic glove and cooked for a bit more while I peeled and chopped the eggplant into half-inch cubes. Added to pan, with a splash of red wine to give it a little liquid (the eggplant sucks up the oil); sauteed while I peeled and chopped the tomatoes. Put tomatoes with all juice in plus a little water, some leftover spaghetti sauce, then a few chopped roasted red peppers, because I didn't have any fresh available. Turned the heat to simmer and put the lid on to let it cook down for a bit, stirring occasionally. Salt, pepper, maybe a little oregano, that's it.

It always looks pretty much the same when you're done, though the taste can vary slightly depending on what you've added in. 

This one was 100% delicious served over quinoa (made with a little chicken bouillon to give it a bit of flavor) and grilled chicken on the side. Our local farmstand still has tomatoes and eggplant out, so it looks like I will be making farmstand ratatouille in the near future!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

romance in the air

In the way of nature, the cycle begins all over again, before we barely have a chance to think about it.

One ram lamb is left: King, one of Farrah's triplets. He will be going to his new home mid-November, but for now, he was frantic by himself. I couldn't put him with the rams -- they would do him serious harm this time of year. I couldn't put him in with the ewe lambs -- we don't like to breed them this young, plus one is his sister and the other is his half-sister.

So I put him in with Giulia. She is so over-conditioned (in sheepy lingo, that stands for really fat) that she has not been successfully bred by the rams in the past two years. I figure if he manages to breed her, he has earned his name.

Let's just say that despite the difference in size, he is doing his best.

We haven't had time to get the other rams into their harnesses and in with the other ewes, but the girls certainly know it's time. I caught them by the back gate of their pasture, mooning over the boys in the next pasture (marked by the blue arrow):

Soon enough, girls!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

least favorite day

I always dread this particular day in the shepherding calendar: our appointment with the butcher. It's not that I dislike our butcher. In fact, I am very grateful that we have such a good facility within driving distance. I took sheep to an auction once, and vowed I would never do it again. This way, they are literally in clover until the moment they are loaded in the truck.

It is more that I dread the hard decisions that need to be made. As a responsible shepherd, I know I need to make those choices, for the good of the animals and the flock, but it doesn't make it any easier.

However, the whole farm seems to breathe a sigh of relief with the release of the pressure. We are back down to the number (roughly a dozen) that the farm -- and its farmers -- can handle over the winter.

We have learned the hard way that it is really important for us to know our limits.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

brag book

The title is completely up front about the purpose of this post. I try not to brag too big on my kids on this blog (I know, I fail miserably), but there were too many things today to keep it in.

This kid returned safe and sound from Indy last night. His school's return was a triumphant one. Out of 24 possible first places in the various divisions of the national agriscience competition, they walked away with six of them -- and he and his lab partner were responsible for one. He is frantically trying to catch up on four missed days of homework because in his words, "Why would I stay in the hotel room when I could be out exploring Indianapolis?"

This kid marked another milestone today with his first day working for my friend and fellow shepherd Val. She raised up Primo in the way of hard work, and now she has taken Secondo under her wing, in part because Primo is just too darn busy these days. They are lucky to have her!

This kid has made a huge breakthrough in his reading and writing in the past couple months, so much so that he can finally join in family board games. Seriously though -- after so much worrying, it is wonderful to watch those connections falling into place for him. The ability to play board games about criminal activities by himself is just icing on the cake.

OK, enough already. Back to regular programming.

Friday, October 21, 2011

two teens

It's official: we have two teens in our house. Secondo turned 13 today. (I did take the time to calculate yesterday that we will never have more than two teens in our house at any one time, due to the birth spacing of our three. Phew.)

The Mexico soccer jersey was a thrift store score.
God love him, one of the items on his
birthday wish list was more just like it,
listed as "cheap soccar [sic] jerseys."

And I did finish the socks in time! They were originally destined for my brother, but when I asked Secondo a few weeks ago to try the first one on to check the size (to my brother's horror, they almost have the same size feet), he went into raptures about the sock, claiming it was the most comfortable sock he had ever had on his foot, and could he please have a pair just like it for his birthday?

But that sock yarn had been discontinued in the meantime -- so it was a no-brainer who got the socks. I did have a few hours of panic yesterday when I couldn't find the finished first sock, but it eventually turned up in a catch-all basket under a Bible. Talk about divine intervention.

They even went to school on his feet this morning. Is there any knitterly pleasure greater than making something for someone who appreciates the product so much?

Now I am off to make the requested birthday dinner (beef stew, as always for this kid), birthday cake, and youth group bake sale offerings. The youth group member will be returning from Indianapolis very late tonight, so I'm helping him out on this one.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


It's been mighty quiet around these parts the past few days. This kid has taken the first step in spreading his wings -- he is off in Indianapolis for the National FFA* Convention this week. He had to wear his jacket on the plane because he sure couldn't pack it in that tiny little carry-on!

The Convention website claims that there are 55,000 high school students walking around Indianapolis in those blue corduroy jackets. It boggles the mind. (His father starting humming "When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way" when he first saw Primo in the jacket; of course it went right over Primo's head.)

In a taste of things to come, Primo is discovering just how fun it is to be off on your own for a bit and out from under your parents wings. Every text message from him, and he has been pretty good about staying in touch, has included the words awesome, great or amazing.

We have another big change on the horizon... actually, the very near horizon. Secondo will be celebrating a birthday milestone tomorrow, and I still have to finish one of his presents.


My plan for the day: knit, and then knit some more, and then hopefully I will be done in time. Goodness knows they are almost growing too fast for me to keep up.

* FFA used to stand for Future Farmers of America. Now it doesn't stand for anything, apparently, but is still focused on agricultural education.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

the yarn harlot and me

For my readers not in the knitting world: there's this famous knitting author named Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, a.k.a. the Yarn Harlot. Isn't her nom de plume awesome in a knitterly kind of way?

That's her: totally awesome. Her blog is awesome, her books are awesome, her knitting is awesome (except when it's not, and the fact that she can admit it publicly makes her even more awesome because it gives all of us less-experienced knitters heart).

I even got to meet her once, at a book signing. She used to have this thing going where you bring along your sock, and she takes a picture of you holding your sock (and this time, you held the sock she was working on as well). It is a long blog post, but if you scroll down to item number 5 and click on the first little picture, you will see me, giggling insanely at the thrill of getting to meet her and hold her sock (the green one in the front).

And therein lies the problem.

It turns out that I am the worst sort of fan. I didn't really do the fan thing when I was a teenager -- no posters of sullen teenage boys on my walls, no fan clubs, nothing. So now that I have actually found someone to be a fan of, my behavior comes off as that of a complete and total boob. I would like to chalk it up to my lack of fandom experience in a younger age. I hope it is not indicative of my overall effect on people, but it does have me worried.

For example: just after she took my picture in the blog post linked above, she mentioned that my sock wasn't finished yet, and I noted it was just waiting for someone to show me how to graft the toe shut. She kind of looked to the person at her side, and muttered something about the directions being in one of her books, and I was so overcome with the stars in my eyes that I didn't realize:

She thought I was asking her to show me how to do it at a book signing. The thought still makes my face burn in shame.

This year at Rhinebeck, I saw her near the book signing table with her new book (I am such a fan that I have all her previous ones). Not wanting to bother her mid-conversation, I took a signed book off the stack and crept away to the register. Later, while waiting in an ATM line, I saw her just outside the building.

I decided I had to kinnear her. (Read the link to understand. She even made up a new word.)

That's her on the right.

Of course, I am a complete and total boob at that too, and she catches me at it, looking straight at me right before she decided to ignore my pathetic attempt.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, I apologize. I really enjoy your work. If only I was able to actually handle the experience of coming face to face with someone I admire so much, and expressing that thought in a coherent fashion, I might actually be able to tell you that myself.

Monday, October 17, 2011

rhinebeck 2011

It was a great festival. Got there safely, took some classes, bought some yarn, did the breed display, have some pictures.

Not detailed enough?

After blog posts in 2008, 2009 and 2010, I worry that maybe there isn't much new, except that I enjoyed myself tremendously this year despite many misgivings about leaving my family. (However, almost every previous entry about Rhinebeck mentions my having a great time in spite of abandonment guilt issues, so I guess this is yet another a recurrent theme.)

So here's how this year went down:

Left on Thursday night again and met up with my parents in a hotel halfway to the fairgrounds, because we had a 9 am class the next morning. I didn't think I was going to make it out of my house that night, but my LSH literally booted me out. Thank goodness, because it made the next morning so much more bearable! The trailer was parked in its spot and up before we needed to get to class; my dad finished getting it ready while we were busy learning. (No need to sleep in the van this year; thanks to my dad, we even enjoyed delicious trailer-cooked meals each night.)

Our Friday morning class on freeform knitting and crochet was with the wonderful Margaret Hubert. If you ever have a chance to take a class with her, jump on it! Just the chance to see her beautiful garments up close was well worth it. I wasn't sure the method was going to appeal me but I walked out so inspired and motivated that I ended up buying some crazy art yarns and a book with patterns for different motifs. Here's my start on a purse (at least that what I think it will be):

Right now it needs a little squinting and imagination.

We tried to have a late lunch at the Culinary Institute of America, but the line was just too long for starving us.  The campus was beautiful, however, and we will have to plan ahead to make reservations next year (and finally add a different experience to my blog entry).

The rotunda in front of the main building; 
it was a little rainy and grey, so hard to appreciate
the fall colors on trees by the Hudson River.

The breed display came together really easily this year, thanks again to Mel Dean from Fiddlehead Farm in Rhinebeck who provided the sheep AND the awesome furniture, and my ever-patient mom who helped with laying it out.

No judging this year (the ribbon you see was for participation) which took quite a bit of the pressure off the weekend.

Sunday morning was yet another great class, this time with Andrea Wong, who taught us an entirely different way of knitting. Portuguese knitting is done by running the yarn through a special pin on your shoulder to tension the yarn and then just using your thumb to move the yarn over the needle -- allow my lovely mother to demonstrate:

It definitely has potential, especially for two color knitting, and just needs a bit more practice and experimentation on my part.

I arrived home in good time, this year with 500 pounds of sheep grain, a mineral feeder, and a nasty cough. Despite a fair bit of exhaustion, I still feel quite inspired and invigorated, craft-wise, which is always the point of the weekend. As an added bonus, I had not one but two (!!) new sweaters to wear this year and get kind comments from other knitters. One of these days I will get pictures up of those as well.

ETA: My mom reminded me -- how could I forget? -- about our nighttime neighbors! We were about 10 feet from a tent full of angora bucks. They spent all night banging their pen panels and making the most god-awful noises at each other. I kept waking up through the night, thinking, surely these things have to sleep at some point? Nope. As the campers in that vicinity emerged the next morning, we were all joking about forming a lynch mob the next night, complete with pitchforks and torches. The goats must have heard the threats because they were significantly quieter!