Lots and lots of crias.
That's what spring and summer have brought. From mid-May on, we've been on pins and needles waiting for babies.
Alpaca babies are no different from human babies in that they arrive when they want to arrive, not necessarily when we want them to arrive. So every week has been an exercise in "hurry up and wait." Will this be the day? Which mom will deliver today?
And we've been very lucky. All seven crias were born healthy and are running the pastures like they are race horses.
The latest cria, born on Sunday, is so darn cute we can hardly stand it.
She's white with a few spots of tan on her head.
And she needs a name. This is where you come in. Starting today through Sunday night (August 3), we are having a naming contest. Come up with the perfect name for our cuter-than-pie cria and a skein of alpaca yarn and a jar of honey are yours.
Here are the rules:
All alpacas born this year will be given names starting with the letter "E." This helps us keep track of the year they were born. Only names starting with the letter E will be considered. If you're looking for inspiration, this young lady's mother's name is Flair and her father's name is Black Midnight.
Enter with as many names as you like. If two people suggest the same name, the earlier entry will be chosen. You may leave a comment here on the blog or on our facebook page.The contest ends at midnight, Sunday, August 3 with the winner announced on Monday morning.
Bonus: we have one more cria due this Summer. If we don't use the name you suggest for our current, unnamed cria, but use it for the soon-to-be-born cria, you too will receive a skein of yarn and a jar of honey.
Take a good look at our young lady, just a few minutes old in this picture, and her mother with the big hair, and give us your best name.
Summer on any farm is a busy time, and That'll Do Farm is no exception.
In addition to new crias being born,
and vegetables to plant, harvest and weed (and weed, and weed, and weed!!)
we have a full line-up of classes and events.
The second and fourth Wednesday of every month, we offer a free, all-day Sit-N-Knit, or Sit-N-Spin or Rug Hook. If it's a fiber arts hobby you're into, you are more than welcome at the farm! Tell your friends and bring your project for an hour or two (or the whole day) at the farm. We are open these days from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
And every Saturday, we are at the Countryside Conservancy Farmers' Market from 9 a.m. to noon with our creamed honey, flavored vinegars, yarn, art batts, roving, handmade knitted gifts, laundry soap and a surprise or two.
Our handmade soap is a popular item and, on Sunday, July 27, you can learn how to make your own version.
Registration is open for the "Making Cold Process Soap" class, which starts at 1 p.m. The cost is $25 for this hands-on class. You'll go home with several bars of your own soap, plus instructions on how, with a few simple ingredients, you can make more at home.
Payment is due at time of registration. To register, click on the "Add to Cart" button below.
Soap Making Class
Then, on Saturday, August 2 at 11 a.m., Sheryl Mandeville of Gemstone Alpaca Farm is teaching a Tri Loom Weaving Class. This class is for beginners. You make a 30" shawlette. All materials are included in the price. Class size is limited to eight so register early.
Registration, along with the $50 class fee, is required.
Tri-Loom Weaving Class
On Sunday, August 17 at 9 a.m., join us for Morning Yoga and a Farm Fresh Breakfast. Start your day our right by stretching and strengthening outdoors in this gentle yoga class, suitable for all skill levels and taught by a certified yoga instructor.
Bring your yoga mat (we'll have extras if you forget yours) for an hour long class out in the quiet and peaceful fields of the farm. After class, we'll take a trip to the chicken coop to collect eggs for a hearty farm breakfast cooked over the open fire.
Registration, along with the $20 class/breakfast fee, is required.
Yoga and Breakfast
This past Saturday was the annual North Central Ohio Rug Show at Kingwood Center in Mansfield. Human dynamo Katie Allman, of Kidl'-de-Divey Woolens, puts this show/hook-in on every year and it's one of my favorites. I'm not sure how she does it, yet I'm awfully glad she does.
The setting is beautiful.
And the gardens are stunning.
Plus, they have peacocks walking around showing you their posteriors.
Kind of reminds me of the farm.
We have pretty flowers.
And we have animals showing you their posteriors.
See, it's exactly the same as Kingwood. Minus the meticulous, weed-free garden beds. Other than that, I'm sure it's exactly the same.
Lots of rug hookers brought rugs to display in the show. This sunflower rug was my favorite.
Vibrant colors on a dark background really make this rug pop.
This pumpkin rug was another favorite.
And what self-respecting Buckeye wouldn't pick this rug as a favorite.
There was lots of wool to ohh and ahh over.
I did pick up a pattern for my next rug. The designer assures me it will only take me a day or two to hook it.
That's what they said about this rug too.
Two years ago.
But in all fairness, in order to finish a rug in a day or two, one has to actually work on it. I'm very good at acquiring the pieces parts to make the rug and very bad at finding the time to sit down to hook.
And that's why I like hook-ins and rug shows. They inspire me to work on my rugs.
Let's hope this is the year that inspiration sticks.
The garlic is growing happily and it's time to harvest garlic scapes.
Scapes are the curly flower stalks of a hardneck garlic plant. They can be left on the plant, but we cut them off the so the plant's energy goes into bulb production and not stalk production.
Plus, using the scapes is like getting a two-for-one plant: harvest the scapes now and harvest the bulb in another month or two. One time planting, two times harvesting. I like the work to harvest ratio of that.
Scapes can be used like green onions: cut into salads for a mild garlic flavor, sautéed in butter and tossed over chicken, mixed in with scrambled eggs, or even made into pesto.
Try this garlic scape pesto over some pasta for an easy meal.
Put a dozen scapes, 1/3 cup pistachios, 1/3 cup grated Romano chees, and some salt (omit the salt if your pistachios are salted) and pepper into a blender or food processor. While the motor is running, slowly pour in 1/3 cup really good olive oil.
Pour over warm pasta and start smiling. It's delicious. So much flavor from such a little bit of a plant.
Scapes are sometimes hard to find in a grocery store. But check out your local farmers' market. This should be a big week for scapes.
I spent the good part of today weeding the garlic, but finally had to give up. Clover has taken up residence between the plants. It needs to come out because it's robbing the garlic of water. But whenever I started to pull the clover, it buzzed to life with many, many, MANY honey bees.
So after carefully weighing my options (pull lots of clover in 90 degree heat vs. leaving clover for the honey bees), for the good of the bees, I decided to leave it. I can just tell people that my garden isn't really messy, it's a planned haven for honey bees.
We've had a nice, long string of outstanding weather here in Northern Ohio. I really even hate to say that in writing for fear of jinxing it. But I'm throwing caution to the wind and stating it in bold letters: It Is Beautiful.
And we deserve it. It was a long, cold Winter ... and early Spring wasn't exactly a picnic either with much more rain than we needed, wanted or could use.
But the last two weeks have been beautiful.
It's a pleasure to work in the garden.
The bees have found the chive blossoms and are hard at work.
And while we are not growing vegetables for a CSA this year, we are still putting in a large garden. Most of the tomato plants are in. I say most because I'm never sure if we have enough.
Are 25 plants enough? Fifty? I'm in the camp that says you can never have enough tomato plants. I think 60 tomato plants sounds like a nice number. Not too many to keep up with, yet enough to have some for canning. Let's hope I don't get to August and regret this conservative number and wish I'd gone with 75 plants.
Spinach, lettuce, herbs -- all are in.
After today, the melons and squashes will be in.
Planting is the fun and easy work. Now comes the hard stuff.
And more weeding. And after that, even more weeding.
But it will be worth it come August when we are rewarded with this:
After a Winter spent indoors, it is a pleasure to be outside digging in the Earth again.
Saturday was opening day at the Farmers' Market for us. Every Saturday through October, we will be at the Countryside Farmers' Market at Howe Meadow in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Peninsula, from 9 a.m. to noon.
This past Saturday, however, we were at the market's Winter home, inside the Old Trail School's gym. You see, we've had a bit of weather in Northern Ohio lately.
O.K., maybe more than a bit. You could say it's been raining cats and dogs. The kind of rain where you think it might actually be time to build that ark. But a "little" rain couldn't stop hundreds of market shoppers from coming out to support their local farmers. And we appreciate it.
We had our creamed honey, lots of beautiful yarn, roving, colorful art batts and our bird nesting material for sale.
Long before we became a vendor at the market, this was my favorite one to attend. It's in a great location in the national park, there's music, fabulous food trucks and friendly people. Not to mention outstanding fresh vegetables, grass fed beef, the best chicken you've ever tasted and pie. How can you not love a market with pie!
So put this market on your calendar. It's every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon through October, when it moves indoors.
The address is 4040 Riverview Road in Peninsula, south off of State Route 303.
See you Saturday.
The Ohio Natural Fiber Network is sponsoring two mushroom dye workshops, to be held at That'll Do Farm, on Saturday, June 14 and Sunday, June 15.
Alissa Allen of Mycopigments has been experimenting with mushroom derived pigments and sharing her enthusiasm and experience with others for 15 years.
Raised by a forager in the Pacific Northwest, she has been a student of the natural world her entire life.
This past year, Alissa has been travelling North America; studying regional fungi, collecting dye mushrooms and teaching dye workshops.
The Fiber Network is happy to bring her to Ohio to teach Exploring Mushroom Dyes of the Great Lakes Region on Saturday from 1-5 p.m. and Silk Dyeing Using Shibori Techniques on Sunday from 1-4 p.m..
During Saturday's class, students will first talk about mushrooms; identification, collecting, storage, safety, and ethical harvest. Then the next three hours will be spent working with the mushrooms and fiber.
One-by-one, students will add the mushrooms to clear glass jars of water that have been heated in a canning pot. As the mushrooms are added, their solvency in water alone will be observed. Some mushrooms release their pigments immediately in the hot water and others require the addition of a solvent such as washing soda.
By the end of the class, students will have dyed a multitude of colors, assembled the samples on cards that detail the recipes and procedures used to achieve the results.
In addition to the samples, everyone will take home a handout which includes a brief history of mushroom dyes, an introduction to working with lichen dyes and directions for mordanting and dyeing at home. Participants also receive a full color regional guide to the best dye fungi in the area.
Sunday's class is all about silk scarf dyeing.
This three hour class focuses on creating wearable mushroom dyed silk. Using four distinct mushroom dye colors and various dye-resist techniques, students will create beautiful, uniquely patterned and textured silk.
Each class is $95 per person and is limited to 12 students. Registration will close May 31st. We can not offer refunds unless your space can be filled by someone on the waiting list.
Saturday, June 14th -- Mushroom Dyeing Class
If you've always wanted to learn to rug hook, Saturday is your day. And if you've never given one thought to rug hooking but now you're curious, Saturday can be your day, too.
I'm teaching a beginning rug hooking class at Knit Knacks Entwined in Worthington, Ohio on Saturday, April 26 from 1 to 5 p.m. Cost of the class is $65 per person and includes four hours of instruction, the small sheep pattern pictured above, all the cut wool for the project, a hook and a small hoop frame.
Rug hooking is a simple craft to learn and out of all the fiber crafts I do, it is my favorite. I try to tell myself that it's not because it's the easiest, but that would be a lie.
I've hooked many a rug over the years, a lot of them with a sheep theme.
But I've branched out in recent years.
My current obsession seems to be bees. My two rugs in progress both have a bee theme.
I did take a break from sheep and bees to hook chickens.
I guess my real theme in rug hooking is farm animals!
There are still two spots open in the class. If you're interested in learning how to hook, you can call Knit Knacks directly to register.
Their number is 614-785-0109.
I will be teaching this same class later in the Summer here at the farm. Details to follow soon.
It looks as if Spring may have finally arrived in Northern Ohio. At least we hope so. If it snows again, we're going to have some mighty cold, naked sheep and goats.
Yesterday, they had their Spring hair cuts. Within minutes, they went from this:
The goats don't seem to mind their twice-a-year trip to the shearing stand.
It's an opportunity to have their hot fleece taken care of and to eat a bowl of goat food at the same time - the goat version of multi-tasking. Their fleece grows fast and they will have a fall hair cut in October, too.
And while the goats are by no means small, they are certainly much more curious and less timid than the sheep. They had no problem waltzing across the pastures and fields to the shearing stand. And they behaved themselves while there.
The sheep, on the other hand, are not willing nor or they well behaved.
They are big boys and they have attitude. With a capital A. They had to be pressed up against the barn for their haircuts. It's a good thing they are only shorn once a year. The big-time wrestling match can wear you out!
But all the sheep wrangling, arm wrenching and falls in the mud were worth it when you see their beautiful fleece.
Soft, spongy and full of crimp, the sheep fleeces will be turned into roving for hand spinners.
The goat fleeces will be made into yarn.
We've started shearing the alpacas, but they are going to take a lot longer simply because there are so many more of them.
But we are not complaining. Shearing means Spring. And after this Winter, anything that means Spring is welcomed with open arms.
Easter is synonymous with fresh, beautiful eggs.
Personally, I think Easter should be synonymous with chocolate. But then again, I think any and all holidays should be associated with chocolate.
Right around Easter is when our chickens start laying again. Normally, chickens lay an egg every day-and-a-half. However, in the Fall and Winter, when the days are shorter and there is less light, they slow way down and egg production falls off.
But the girls are back in production mode and laying like crazy.
This is the time of year we get the most questions about eggs. Number one question: Are brown eggs better for you than white eggs. The answer is no.
The color of the shell is not an indicator of nutrition. Different breeds of chickens lay different color eggs. Most commercial egg laying facilities use a breed of chicken that lays a white egg because that breed is considered a "heavy layer" - meaning they have been bred to crank out eggs at a higher rate than other breeds.
So don't pay extra in the grocery store for brown eggs if you are buying them thinking they hold more nutrition. They don't. They are just a different breed of chicken raised in the same way as the white egg-laying chickens.
We raise a variety of heritage breed chickens here at the farm. Heritage breed chickens are older breeds that are accustomed to free ranging outdoors and living a more natural life than chickens that have been bred strictly for high volume egg production. Our birds give us eggs in all sorts of colors, from blue, green, dark brown, brown, pinkish to white.
Our chickens are free ranging, meaning we open the hen house door in the morning and they spend their days in the fields and gardens eating all sorts of things that chickens are supposed to eat, including bugs, worms and fresh vegetables. Each day, they get plenty of fresh air and green, green grass under their little chicken feet. In return, they give us plenty of flavorful eggs.
We believe that our eggs have a higher nutritional value than commercial eggs because of the chicken's diet. They are not eating strictly grain like a commercial chicken would. We know this varied diet makes their eggs taste so much better!
Once you've eaten a farm egg, you may never buy a supermarket egg again. Eggs from the supermarket may have been sitting there for weeks, losing nutrients, color and taste every day. Farm eggs are fresh daily. (For more information about what the terms free range, organic and humane mean, check out our homepage.)
Our eggs cook up light and fluffy. The yolks are a deep, rich orange color and the whole egg has actual flavor, not like it's rubbery counterpart in the supermarket. Your omelets, cookies and pies will take on a whole new taste. People will start calling you the next Martha Stewart. All because of a simple egg.
We sell our eggs at the farm for $3.50 dozen. Feel free to stop by to purchase eggs, but be warned - we do sell out quickly.
If you'd like to dye eggs for Easter without using chemical dyes, check out the FarmMade blog.