What is it about beautiful, warm days that makes people think about eating vegetables? I'm sure there is a detailed study out there someplace that gives all the reasons behind it, but I know it to be a fact based on the number of calls we are getting this week about our CSA. It's fresh vegetable time folks!
If you're thinking of adding more vegetables to your life this year, you have up until May 1 to purchase your share. But I urge you not to wait -- shares are starting to go quickly.
At the risk of sounding ultra corny, we want you to really connect with your food and with YOUR farm. We know everyone can't or doesn't want to live on a farm and grow their own food. But that doesn't mean you have to be removed from the whole process of what you are actually eating.
We encourage our CSA members to come out to the farm. See what we're growing. Ask questions about the season. Talk about the weather -- believe me, we talk about it everyday. Visit the beehives. Say hello to the chickens. This is your place on the earth, the place from which your food comes. I think that's a pretty strong connection.
If you've heard about CSAs but don't know exactly what they are all about, check out our FAQ page. If you have more questions after that, give us a call at 440-829-3644 or 440-829-3642.
We're happy to be your vegetable enablers.
The soil is warming up. The seeds are ready to go. Early flats have been planted and some lettuce is already in the cold frames.
That means its time to eat fresh veggies again! "Simply in Season" is an excellent cookbook that contains hundreds of recipes celebrating fresh, local foods. Like the "Spring Greens Salad" with a fresh vinaigrette, or celery seed dressing, or strawberry vinaigrette, or ginger dressing or creamy dressing. That's five ways to eat one salad.
Not to mention the Spring Quiche Trio. And let's not leave out creamed asparagus or fresh pea soup. Not bad. I feel healthier just thinking about it.
To kick-start your spring and summer season of healthier eating, we're offering "Simply in Season" for $15 during the month of March. You'll save $5 off the regular price. Five dollars you can spend on spring greens, or peas, or asparagus.
You can also spend it on candy and ice cream, just don't tell anybody.
We have a lot of pretty, pre-dyed eggs at the farm. The chickens dye them themselves.
That's right, we have some pretty talented chickens. They produce dark chocolate brown, blue, green, and even pale pink eggs. Now I don't want to mislead you and have you thinking our chickens are in the kitchen, with little chicken aprons on, dyeing eggs. Our girls are good, but they ain't that good!
No, they happen to lay colored eggs. And no, we don't feed them food coloring to make the color of the shell change (one of the top questions we get!). We get colored eggs because of the varieties of chickens we have. Each breed lays a specific color of egg and we often pick breeds for the diversity of egg color -- eggs like you won't find in the grocery store.
But if you don't have magic chickens that lay pre-dyed eggs like our girls, there are a few ways to go about dyeing eggs that don't rely on the neon-colored egg dyeing kits of my youth. The ingredients are as close as your grocery store and they will produce a natural, subdued egg color.
First, to overstate the obvious, you need eggs. Most people use white eggs, but you can overdye brown or colored eggs. Your colors will come out a bit darker, but the effect is pretty just the same. Hard boil your eggs and cool them to room temperature. Then you are ready to start.
My favorite secret indgredient to use is beets. Regular red beets found at the store. I've never used canned beets so I don't know if the results would be the same, but it might be fun to experiment.
To get a dark pink egg, cut up 1 large beet and add it to 4 cups of boiling water. Stir in 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. Take it off the heat and let it come to room temperature and then strain out the beets. Add you hard boiled eggs to the dye and let them sit. The longer they sit, the darker the color. Overnight is best, but keep checking to see the varied results.
Happen to have a fair amount of turmeric on hand? Oddly enough, we do. We use it to dye fiber. Turmeric will give you a deep yellow to orange colored egg. Add 5 tablespoons of ground turmeric to 4 cups of boiling water. Stir in 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Simmer until the turmeric dissolves. Take it off the heat. Let it come to room temperature and then add the hard boiled eggs. Again, the longer the eggs sit in the dye, the deeper the color.
Use one cup of grape juice mixed with 1 tablespoon of vinegar to get a pale lavender color. (You don't need to boil the grape juice).
Have an abundance of yellow onion skins? Simmer them in 2 cups of water for about 15 minutes, strain off the skins, add 3 tablespoons of white vinegar and let the water cool to room temperature. Add your eggs and you know the drill -- the longer they sit, the deeper their color. With onion skins, you'll get anywhere from a pale yellow to a light orange to a reddish color. It just depends on the color of onion skins that went into the pot and the amount. What's that you say? You only have red onion skins. Add them to the water just like you were using yellow and see what happens. Don't be surprised if you get green!
Do you want blue eggs? Start with half a head of red cabbage. Shred it into 4 cups of boiling water and add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Then boil, baby, boil. Boil for a good 20 minutes. Strain it into a bowl and let it cool. Add your hard boiled eggs and watch them magically turn blue. Again, the longer they sit, the darker they will be.
I think it's fun to experiement with natural dyes. With the store bought dye kits, you knew what you were getting. A red was a red was a red. But with natural dyes, who knows what will come out of the dye pot.
Give it a try this Easter. Send me your pictures. I'd love to see your results. Everyone who sends a picture of the eggs they dyed the natural way will be entered into a pool to win a large jar of our world famous (slight exaggeration) That'll Do Farm Wildflower Honey. (U.S. only please, we can't ship food out of the states.)
Easter is April 8th so I'll need your pictures by midnight on the 7th. Can't wait to see your results!
We're creeping up on that time of year when the alpacas, sheep and goats are relieved of their heavy winter coats. That's right, it's almost shearing time. The time for the animals to get naked!
It's also nearing the time when area fiber shows, with freshly shown fleeces, are starting. The next big show Ohio show is the Black Swamp Spinners Guild Market Day on March 24 in Bowling Green.
That's followed by A Knitter's Fantasy in Youngstown, Blessing of the Sheep in Peninsula, the Upper Valley Fiber Fest in Troy, the Great Lakes Fiber Show in Wooster, and Woolfest in Kirtland. That just takes us to the end of May. In August, we have the Mid-Ohio Fiber Fair in Newark. Folks, that's a lot of fiber in one state!
Many spinners would like to pick out their own fleeces at these shows, but are a bit afraid. What if it isn't a good fleece?
If you're never purchased a fleece before, here are a few tips:
-- Raw fleece is fleece straight off the animal. It is not washed. Sometimes it is skirted by the farm and sometimes it isn't. Ask the seller if the fleece you are looking at is skirted. Skriting is when the extra dirty parts of the fleece are removed, second cuts are removed, and most hay or debris that sticks to the fiber is pulled out as well. Tags are also removed (to be graphic, tags are poops that hang to the fleece). Raw fleece is cheaper than skirted fleece because less work by the farmer has gone into it. Skirting can take a bit of time so the price for a skirted fleece will be higher than a raw, unskirted fleece. A washed fleece is more costly yet.
-- Ask if it is a whole fleece or a blanket. The blanket of an animal is the best fiber, usually across the top and sides of the animal. The blanket fiber is more uniform. Legs and necks of alpaca can be nice too, but not as nice as the blanket.
-- Check for soundness. Pull out a staple of fiber. Hold it between your two hands, put it near your ear and give it a tug. It should make a nice pop or ping sound. You should not hear it tear or break. Avoid a fleece that you hear breaking.
-- Check the crimp.
Crimp should be even over the entire length of the fiber. More crimp means more bounce and elasticity. Less crimp isn't necessarily bad, it just means your yarn will not have as much spring as a yarn made with a fiber with lots of crimp.
-- Check for second cuts. Second cuts are when the shearer backs up the blades as he or she is shearing and goes over the same area twice. It gives you tiny (under an inch) lengths of fiber that are not desirable for spinning and, if spun into the yarn, will make your fiber itchy and fuzzy looking. A raw fleece that has not been skirted can very well have second cuts. A skirted fleece should not have many, if any at all. A good shearer won't have a lot of second cuts in a fleece and those that are there will have been skirted out.
-- Check that the tips (uncut end) are strong. Try to strip off the tip with your fingers. If a large portion of it breaks off easily, avoid that fleece.
With those hints in mind, you are now ready to hit the fiber show tour.
That'll Do Farm will shear in later April or early May. After that time, we will have some beautiful alpaca, mohair and Romeldale/CVM fleeces for sale. We will also be at Blessing of the Sheep and the Mid-Ohio Fiber Fair, as part of the Ohio Natural Fiber Network's booth.
Come on out. We'll be happy to talk fiber to you and show off our beautiful fleeces.
After last year's Tour de Fleece, I thought my spinning wheel and I had reached an understanding. He would spin much nicer yarn if I would spend more time with him.
Like any great relationship, wheel and I have been through some tough times. Some ups and downs. Good days and bad.
But I was not prepared for the backlash from wheel when I sat down to spin after several short months away from him. He, apparently, was taking my vow to spin more seriously.
Look at the chunky, uneven yarn he spun when I first sat back down with him.
Shame, wheel, shame.
But I am taking the high road on this issue. I told wheel that we're calling this yarn "Art Yarn" -- I convinced wheel that I indended it to be underspun, overspun, thick and thin. This is how I designed this yarn, I said. I told him I was expressing my artsy, playful, creative side and he kindly assisted in the endeavor. I then thanked him for going along with my experiment.
Wheel bought that line hook, line and bobbin becasue he shaped right up and spun this colorful roving
into this pretty yarn.
I think Wheel and I are back on track.
He appreciates the time I'm spending with him and I appreciate the yarn he is giving me in return.
The USDA and I finally agree on something -- the importance of their program, "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food."
It's the government's nod toward the growing trend of people wanting to connect with their food, and with the people that grow it.
It's a philosophy with which we wholeheartedly agree.
We think you should know the faces that grew the salad you're eating. Or the eggs you've had for breakfast. You should know the farm where your food was raised. Aside from raising it yourself, how else can you be sure of its quality?
Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food -- it is a simple concept. We invite you to come out to the farm as we get ready to grow another season's worth of produce. We invite you to check out our chickens and see how they are raised. You'll see for yourself why our farm fresh eggs taste better than anything even the fanciest grocery store has to offer. You'll see our six bee hives for yourself and learn what the bees are eating to produce their excellent wildflower honey.
We'll explain to you our growing methods and why we've chosen not to use artificial pesticides and chemicals on our crops. We'll wax poetic over the wonders of manure and compost. That's right. Waxing. Poetic.
Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food says so much more to me than certified organic, or free range, or non-GMO. If you know your farmer, he or she can talk with you about all these terms and explain to you his or her growing practices. Think about it. WalMart is selling certified organic eggs, but that doesn't tell you a thing about the farm they came from, how the chickens were raised and how long ago they were laid. But if you're buying eggs from your local farmer, you can pretty much see these things for yourself.
If you've decided to take this "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" thing a little more seriously by joining a produce CSA, please do your research. There is a growing trend where farm-to-home delivery services are marketing themselves as CSAs.
There is an interesting article about this trend on Small Farm Central's blog. (Small Farm Central is the wonderful company behind our website.)
Obviously, if you're going to join a produce CSA, we'd like for it to be ours. But if you choose another's, please make sure you know your farmer. Only then will you know your food.
We still have a few spots open for tomorrow's Seed Starting class.
Class is $25 per person and you'll go home with a large tray of seeds you've started yourself, along with the knowledge of how to care for them once they emerge as seedlings.
This is a hands-on class so be sure to bring gardening gloves if you use them. And wear boots as we will tour the farm before class.
Make this the year you take that first step to becoming more food self sufficient.
I know there are all sorts of programs out there that will layout our gardens and fields in a manner of minutes.
I know if I asked my son or daughter, or a local first grader, they could have those programs loaded on the computer in seconds.
But I'm going old school here.
The simple reason is I NEED to plot out the beds by hand. I NEED to flip through the calendar repeatedly, counting the weeks until the last frost and the first frost in the fall. It all helps to cement the dates in my head.
Plus I like colored pencils. They remind me of grade school.
Fields and beds are layed out to scale and then colored in.
Dates to move transplants and start second sowings are also added. As are dates to side dress certain beds with compost.
Then it's time to move on to the Dyers/Herb/Cutting garden. This is the smallest of all the gardens, yet one of the most fun to plan.
Blooming flowers, tasty herbs and a vegetable thrown in for fun -- what's not to love.
After that's all done, it's time to look at last year's successes and failures. These two tomatoes were in the "failure" column.
The White Wonder tomato was much anticipated. Martha Stewart and the Beekman Boys raved about it. So we gave it a try. It's really a yellow-ish tomato, not white. Don't let the name fool you.
I'm a fan of yellow tomatoes, especially the yellow pear and the yellow Brandywine varieties. But I thought White Wonder was bland. It's off the list for 2012.
The Sweet Pea Currants were taken off the grow list for 2012 not because of taste but because they are not easy to pick. This small, prolific tomato would be great in a container in the home garden, but when you have to pick buckets of tomatoes in the morning for CSA pick-up that afternoon, these pint-sized tomatoes are way too labor intensive. We'll stick to cherry and grape sized tomatoes and skip the currents.
These varieties of peppers, lettuces and tomatoes all made the cut and we will be growing them again for 2012.
If you're starting a garden this year, no matter how big or small, I would highly recommend keeping detailed notes from year-to-year. You may think you'll remember the name of that really hot pepper you loved, but by the time Spring rolls around, you'll have forgotten.
Write it down. Make notes throughout the growing season. Decide what you really like and what you don't.
There are so many good choices out there. And, if growing vegetables isn't your thing, there is still time to sign up for the CSA, where we grow them for you.
It's a really busy time at the farm. March has arrived and it has put me in a panic.
Spring is only 18 days away. How the heck did that happen??
We're up to our eyeballs in planting schedules, seed orders and assorted other things.
But there is always time to play with PhotoShop.
I thought you'd like to see a picture of our sheep as they would have appeared during the depression.
Don't they look stoic and tough. Hardscrapple.
But wait, add the color back in and they just look like sheep. Curious. And a little timid.
Do you think the people in all those pictures from the 1930s and 1940s really weren't as hard and tough-as-nails as they appeared? Who knows how we would have thought of those by-gone years if we had the wonders of PhotoShop.
I didn't have the heart to "depression-ize" Joey and the goats.
They are just too full of life and goat antics. Raphael finds it necessary to stand on his stump each and every time I get the camera out. He's such a ham.
And finally, I know I told you I'd show you no rug before its time, but I lied. A touch of insomnia found me up way too early so I thought I'd work on the Sheep in Sunflowers rug.
One sheep - done. Five sunflowers - done. Assorted leaves and stems -- done and done. All that is left to do is hook the background.
I figure one or two more nights of not sleeping and I will have a completed rug.
Stop the presses. Pour yourself a glass of champagne. Pour ME a glass of champagne.
Today is a wonderful day. Yes, the sun is shining. Yes its fairly warm for late February. And yes, Spring is only 21 days away.
But that's not enough for press stopage and champagne pouring. The real news of the day is that I have finished my chicken rug!
The chicken rug that I started at the Ohio Rug Camp, way back in April of 2011.
Now "finished" is a relative term when applied to hooking rugs. I have finished hooking my rug, but I haven't trimmed the edges and put on the binding tape yet. Then I would be FINISHED, finished. But as far as I'm concerned, I'm finished!
This is a Joanne Gerwig design, from Woodcrest Rug Designs. I'm also hooking her Sheep in Sunflowers rug, but its not anywhere near as completed as this one and I have vowed to show no pictures of it until its done. It's a game I'm playing with myself. I think the no-picture thing will really show me -- and force me to work on it more. We'll soon see if I've fooled myself with that ploy.
Today's rare February sunshine is certainly putting me in the mood for Spring's arrival. I was working at the drum carder, looking out a sun-filled window, and dreaming of planting and working the soil.
It must have inspired me to card spring colors because everything I worked on today was bright, bright, bright!
I'm usually a fan of autumn colors but no sir, not today. Today was a grab you by the throat and shout to the world that Spring is coming kind of day. Just look at the bright, bright orange. Mixed with yellow and purple. What has come over me! Never in my right, autumn-toned mind would I mix yellow, purple and orange. And yet it works. It works quite well.
And then purple. Mixed with red, hot pink and Sparkles. Oh yeah, this is definitely a Spring Fever day. I don't think it has ever before occured to me before to put red, purple and hot pink together. Not to mention sparkles. But I like it. It's a happy art batt.
And so is this coral and sea foam green. I'm telling you, Spring is messing with me big time. I have never uttered the words sea foam green in my entire life and yet, there it is. Pretty as a picture.
I'm telling you, I really am an earth tone kinda gal. And yet, even when I tried to make an earth tone-ish kind of art batt, look at what happened:
Vibrant, shiny golds, corals, oranges, greens and browns. It looks like a fiber sherbet party.
And I love it. I want to pull the spinning wheel out right now and spin a skein full of sherbet.
But I think I'm going to take myself outside and drink in a great big dose of sunshine.
It's not everyday I finish a rug . . . or card sherbet art batts.