This past weekend, it was roadtrip time.
And I can't think of a better place to take a roadtrip in mid-October than Rhinebeck
The sign says it all: The Nation's Largest Sheep & Wool Festival. It is a mecca for fiber addicts from across the country. Fiber addicts that came armed with cash and credit cards.
The line formed early, and we were lucky enough to be near the front of it. Not that we were anxious or anything.
We had a game plan, but they passed out brochures while we were waiting in line so we were able to make last minute adjustments to the plan. This is serious business folks and it would never do to go into battle without a strategy.
One of our early stops was at the fleece sale.
It was like the Bubba Gump of fiber. There was alpaca fiber, mohair fiber, Romney fiber, llama fiber, Shetland fiber, Merino fiber, Angora fiber, Finn fiber. Cormo fiber. That's about it.
Some of it was so beautiful it would make you weep tears of joy.
Next on the hit list, Briar Rose.
Yes, I know Briar Rose is just one tiny state over from us here in Ohio and there really is no need to travel 10 hours to see their yarn, but just look at it. It is so pretty that I would travel to the ends of the earth to touch it, smell its slight vinegar smell and to dream about what it could become.
Did I buy any? No. I still have some waiting in the on-deck circle from when I purchased it at Wooster, but that doesn't mean I couldn't go visit it.
I also had to visit Seacolors.
I finally finished a sweater with yarn bought from Seacolors at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival two years ago. Two whole years and finally one sweater. Shame on me.
But again, nothing came home with me from Seacolors, I just had to touch it.
All the vendors had beautiful displays of color.
It's enough to make a gal go weak in the knees.
Luckily, we kept our wits about us and hit the tamale stand before the masses discovered it.
A butternut squash tamale with red cabbage coleslaw. Delish. This ain't your typical fair food! My only regret was that the falafel stand was sold out by dinner time.
When we got back to the hotel, it was time to revist my stash. Mostly, I purchased roving and wool locks dyed with natural plant material.
Today, the fiber fun continues as I will play with color at the drum carder, adding these locks to our alpaca fiber.
I also purchased a skein of indigo dyed silk from Long Ridge Farm. Earlier in the year, I had the good fortune to take an indigo class from Nancy Zeller of Long Ridge and really admire her work. I know I should make a cowl for a gift from this skein. But I really want to make something for myself. We'll see if the good me or the bad me wins this inner argument.
Our entire day at Rhinebeck was outstanding. Perfect weather. Lots to see and do. Beautiful fiber to buy. Be sure to put it on your calendar for next year. You won't be sorry.
Funny thing about Angora goats. They grow a lot of fiber. And I mean a lot.
Not that I'm complaining. Angora goat fiber, also known as mohair, is soft and luxurious. It knits up like a dream and is coveted the world over. The only problem is it has to come off the goat twice a year. Once in the Spring and then again in the Fall.
Saturday was our "removal of the mohair" day -- also known as shearing day.
We started with Fred, beloved Fred. The nicest goat on earth. Except he didn't want his hair cut and needed a little nudge from behind to make it to the barn for shearing.
Did you ever try to push a goat that doesn't want to go someplace? Stubbon little guys.
But eventually he got to where he needed to be and the shearing began. And from the looks of him, I'd say it wasn't a minute too soon.
My favorite part of shearing is returning the newly shorn animal to the pen for inspection by the other animals. They treat the clean-shaven animal like a newcomer. Everybody comes running to see the new kid on the block.
A couple of good sniffs and they realize its the same old, same old, just with a new look.
But getting their fiber cut off certainly invigorates the herd. There is always a "Clash of the Titans" moment when two naked goats have to have a horn-to-horn duel and reestablish their place in the herd.
They're awfully cute naked, but, to me, nothing beats an Angora goat covered in fiber.
Too cute for words.
This is Raphael, the grand puba of the herd. Nothing on earth should look this silly.
But alas, he, too, is now naked and we won't have this wonderful view of his face again until Spring, when we do the whole process over again.
Great job boys. You grew some beautiful fiber this year. We've skirting it and will take it to the mill next month for processing into yarn.
I don't think we humans look nearly as odd wearing their fiber as they do!
It's that time of year again. We're putting some of the gardens to bed for the year, spreading manure on others, growing cover crops and planting garlic.
In our neck of the woods, we plant a variety of hardneck garlic called music. This is a white skinned garlic with a hint of pinky-blue to it. The individul cloves are big and produce a true, strong garlic taste.
This is a hardy garlic that is well suited to our Ohio Winters. In mid-Spring, the hardneck varieties of garlic send up a curly stalk, commonly called a scape.
Scapes are absolutely delicious and can be used like you would green onions, only giving off a garlic flavor and not an onion taste. So in essence, garlic gives you two crops: the scapes in mid-Spring and the bulbs later in the Summer. Not too bad of a deal from one small-ish bulb.
We have about 50 pounds of garlic waiting patiently in the on-deck circle. They are ready to be pulled apart, clove by clove, and planted in nice fertile soil, about four inches apart.
We'll go down the rows, with one persoon digging out a line about six inches deep, another person pulling apart the cloves and handing the biggest cloves to one more person who will drop them into place and then cover them back up.
Later in the year, when it gets a bit colder, we'll come back and cover the beds with a rich layer of mulch to keep them at a more even temperature.
In the Spring, when the shoots emerge, we'll pull back the mulch a bit and let the garlic do its thing.
If you've never had farm-fresh garlic before and are only buying that stuff that passes for garlic in the grocery stores, you're in for a treat. Rich. Pungent. Delicious. A true garlic taste, not a pale, watered down taste at all.
Maybe not all 50 pounds will be planted after all. I may have to keep a pound or two back for personal enjoyment over the upcoming Winter, before I can get my hands on fresh garlic scapes again.
As for vampires, I think I'll use the supermarket varieties on them. No sense wasting good garlic!
It was a cold and rainy weekend. In other words, it was a crafter's dream.
There's nothing better than spending a yucky, nasty day indoors, surrounded by wool. Creating.
This past Saturday, the Call of the Wool was heard by two new rug hookers. They came to the farm to learn to hook a simple, primitive-style rug -- Andi's Sheep, designed by Heidi Kramer of Woolnuts.
The first time you have a hook in hand, it can be a bit intimidating. Where do you start? How do you end a row? How do you get your loops even? How do you start a new color? The questions and the doubts are many at the beginning.
But once you hook for a few minutes, you begin to realize it isn't that hard. Trish and Jan learned about outline and fill.
And then they went to town.
I don't want to give you the wrong impression, but these ladies are fast hookers.
They filled in their sheep.
And then they moved on to the background.
They did darn nice work.
They did so well that they didn't need my imput and I was able to hook a bit on the rug I started in Katie Allman's class.
I'm beginning to like this rug and its very different style. The feeling of the water matched the feeling of the day. Cold. Blustry. You know Winter is a comin'.
And Winter means more time to hook. And knit. And dye wool. And. And. And. The possibilities are endless. Winter is a crafter's dream.
Katie has traveled to Amherst, Nova Scotia to take a week-long class with Deanne and to bring back this unusual (for most of us) style of hooking to our little corner of the world.
In Deanne's words, "Each piece I create is different from the last. I use recycled cloth, gather old wool clothing from real people in real communities. The clothes are washed, dried and torn apart. It is then hooked loop by loop on a a backing of burlap or linen."
The rugs are vibrant, beautiful and a touch wild -- just like the Canadian landscape they depict. There is a lot of movement in each piece and to me, they just scream with emotion. This ain't your primitive, country rug!
The hooking is very random and uneven -- to my traditionally trained brain, two words that don't normally go with rug hooking. It was hard to allow myself to let go of what I knew from the past and just hook.
But once I got going, it was darn fun. I chose the "Boats & Shack" pattern because it reminded me of the fishing boats and colorful houses I saw on a post-college trip to the Gaspe Peninsula.
Others in the class chose the "Poppies on the Edge of Town"pattern.
This is Deanne's finished version:
Can't you just feel the cold sea air and smell the salt. Makes me want to hop in the car, drive for three days and stand in this exact spot.
We had a happy group of hookers for the class. But really, how can one be uphappy when surrounded by wool?
And doughnuts. Hookers are fuled by doughnuts and coffee.
In between teaching and color planning, Katie read from some of Deanne's books and also told stories about what some of the rugs mean to her.
This rug is very special to Katie. She hooked it when her mother became ill. Her mother always told her a floor isn't really clean unless you've cleaned it on your hands and knees. So Katie began to hook this rug with her mother in mind.
And now that her mother has passed, she has this rug to remember her by. How nice to have a piece of art in your home that can take you back to happier days when those you loved were still here. No store-bought rug can do all that!
We had two brand new hookers with us for the class. They didn't struggle at all with preconceived notions of rug hooking and just hooked away with abandon.
And whenever someone was stuck, Katie was there to lend a hook.
It was a wonderful way to spend the better part of a day. This rug should hook up much faster than my other rugs. I will keep you posted on my progress.
This past weekend, we welcomed hundreds of visitors to the farm for our annual open house.
They came to meet alpacas.
They came to buy yarn, fresh from our farm amd from other local vendors like Destination Yarn.
They came to learn new skills, like using weaving sticks.
And they came to watch spinning demonstrations.
They came to meet Moose, a border collie with the longest tongue on the planet.
And yes, that is an official nametag Moose is sporting. All the farm hands had to wear them.
They came to hear about llamas and ask questions like, "Why does a llama need a scarf?" The answer -- because it's darn cute.
But mostly, they came to enjoy a crisp Ohio Autumn day on a farm.
And really, there isn't anything better than that.
So we'd like to give a big thank you to all who came out. We enjoyed meeting you and showing you what we do here at That'll Do Farm.
Please join us Saturday, September 29th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, September 30th from noon to 5 p.m. for an up-close-and-personal tour of the farm.
Meet both Suri and Huacaya alpacas, including two brand new babies -- and a possible third. We're waiting for Debutante's cria, which was due on September 14th. It's got to be any day now! Maybe she'll wait until Saturday and you'll have a chance to see an alpaca take its first steps.
Say hello to a goat or two and discover where mohair comes from. Visit with a rare breed CVM/Romeldale sheep. Get your head sniffed by a llama -- all typical farm things.
Tour the produce gardens as we are getting ready to put them to bed for the season.
Watch the farm's beekeeper's harvest honey (4 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday). You'll get a delicious sample fresh from the comb.
Shop our vendors for local yarn, roving, art batts and other fiber-related treasures. Watch roving being spun into yarn.
Be sure to bring your camera and wear your play clothes.
Autumn in Ohio is too beautiful to miss. Make plans to spend a relaxing day on the farm.
Ladies and gentlemen, hold on to your hats. Take a seat if you're standing. For what I am about to tell you will blow your socks off.
After four thousand six hundred and fifty two years, I have finished a fiber project! That's right, a 100% complete, honest-to-goodness finished object.
May I present to you "Sheep in Sunflowers," designed by Joanne Gerwig and hooked by me.
I started this rug back on September 29, 2010.
I am proud to say that it did NOT take me two years to hook this baby. I am four, count 'em, four days shy of having completed this rug in two years. Yes, I know, I should really be ashamed of myself for taking that long. But in my defense, I've knit a few things, finished another rug and started a million other projects in that two year time frame.
So I'm sticking with proud. Next up, putting a border on my "finished" chicken rug. Then the bragging begins. Two rugs completed in the same year. I'd better rest. All this excitement -- I'm getting the vapors.
Fall has arrived and we are celebrating by throwing the barn doors open and inviting the world in to see how beautiful farm life can be on a splendid autumn day.
This Saturday and Sunday, September 29th and 30th, the farm will be open as part of the Ohio Natural Fiber Network's Fall Fiber Farm Tour.
Saturday, come see us between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and Sunday, we'll be here from noon to 5 p.m.
Meet the alpacas up close and personal.
One of them is bound to steal your heart.
Tour the fields and learn what we grew this year for our CSA and what plans we have for next year.
At 4 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday, our beekeepers will be opening a hive and extracting honey.
This is your chance to taste honey as fresh as can be.
Visit with the sheep and the goats.
Say high to Joey, the world's strangest llama. Peruse the farm store for yarn, roving or art batts. Pick up a pair of our very own alpaca socks or boot inserts.
Bring your knitting, rug hooking or spinning for a full day of knitting around the bonfire or knitting around the table indoors if its cold.
Check out the wares from other Ohio fiber vendors, including Midwest Fiber Company.
Bring your kids. Your neighbors. Your neighbor's kid's kids. Don't forget your camera, but please do come and spend the day on the farm.
Autumn in Ohio is a short, special season. Make sure you take advantage of it. Hope to see you this weekend!
This past Sunday was a gorgeous day. Sunny, yet cool. Not the stinkin' hot of the Summer, but the warm/cooler days of early Autumn. You can see it in the colors of the farm -- greens fading to browns with yellows creeping in.
The idea of the dinner was to sample honey from around Ohio and other states, along with honey Chef Carmella from LaCampagna brought back from her recent culinary trip to Italy.
Honey has a "terroir" or "taste of place" -- meaning honey from our farm will taste different than honey from another farm. The bees are eating different things, the soil is different and so is the water, so it makes sense that the honey will take on a unique taste from each location.
Guests could sample up to ten unique honeys and then record their thoughts on the characteristics of each. Was it floral or nutty; did it have a fruity taste or was it earthy; did it taste of herbs. Those were the types of questions each guest was asked as they sampled, sampled and then sampled again.
Like wine or artisan beer, there isn't a right or wrong answer. It is an individual taste. I, personally, am not a fan of the darker honeys like buckwheat. I prefer our light, Spring wildflower honey. Yet others love the dark, earthy honeys. As much as I'd like to say they're wrong, it truely is a matter of personal taste.
After sampling the honey, guests moved on to the extensive appetizers, including a cheese course provided by Lake Erie Creamery, Stuffed Scampi with honey and feta cream cheese, That'll Do Farm zucchini pancakes and blossoms with chevre and Italian wildflower honey, deviled eggs (provided by our girls, of course) with farm-fresh chives and last but not least, a garden beet salad drizzled with honey and orange hazelnut dressing.
If you haven't had Chef Carmella's orange hazlenut dressing, you are missing out on one of life's greatest pleasures. I strongly urge you to run, not walk, to her restaurant in Westlake and order a salad with this dressing. You may never have dreamed of salad dressing before, but you will after this. And, by the way, you will thank me for the rest of your life.
After the honey and appetizer courses were served, it was time for a brief farm tour to build up an appetite for the mouth watering courses that were to follow.
Guests were given copies of the latest issue of Edible Cleveland to peruse between courses. This is quarterly publication by the husband and wife team of Noelle Celeste and Jon Benedict. Be sure to pick up a copy. We are lucky to have a local publication dedicated to farm fresh food in the Northeast Ohio area. And, if you really want to be in-the-know about food happenings locally, like them on facebook.
We were entertained throughout the meal by the mellow sounds of 3 Sheets to the Wind. Later in the evening, a bit of "dancing" occurred by our chefs, but, much to the relief of those in attendance, none of it was caught on camera!
Carmella outdid herself with the pecan encrusted pike drizzled with Sardinian cardoon honey.
I think my favorite were the grilled lamb chops with rosemary garlic accompanied by green beans picked fresh and sauteed with fingerling potatoes. I want more. Now. Right now. Lesson learned. Never blog while hungry!
But our guests were not done yet. Next came pork tenderloin with honey lime sauce and everybody's favorite side dish, butternut squash and leek bread pudding. If I could figure out a way to eat only this bread pudding, the above mentioned orange hazlenut dressing and my grandma's ravioli each and every day of the year, I would do it in a heartbeat.
Finally, with stomachs full, but still able to enjoy one more meat course, out came the fried apples with honey grilled chicken and spaghetti squash pesto.
It's safe to say guests were slowing down to a mere crawl at this point. And yet the mention of dessert did not meet with groans, moans or cries of, "Oh no, I couldn't possibly eat dessert."
So out came the corn crema with Chef Mike Fragassi's My Girl's Honey. I heard actual applause after this sweet treat was tasted.
It was a special day at the farm and I'd like to thank all of our guests for coming out. We plan to do many more of these Farm to Table dinners next year so get your farm boots ready. Come out and spend an evening with us, eating food fresh from the fields.
The combination of fresh air, fresh food prepared by a fabulous local chef, soft, mellow music and good company certainly made for a most enjoyable evening.