Archive | February, 2013

Meduseld Morning

It looks like it will be a gorgeous day.  Here is the view East of the dawn through the clouds rising out of the valley.


And here is the view West, with the sun’s gentle pink morning rays.  Wishing everyone a lovely day!



And, look who is drying himself from last night’s rain in the morning sunshine…verde

Crocheted Shawl and Scarf

I have just finished two more apparel items for the Meduseld Store.  They will be listed in the store 2/27/13

The first is a filmy soft, almost diaphanous shawl made of alpaca and silk.  The color is dove blue-grey and it is embellished on the fringe with beads of the same color.

Cloud Shawl

Construction included over 800 yards of the alpaca silk blend. 



The other is a fun, colorful and warm scarf that I call “prism.”  It was made of two skeins of Lion Brand Yarn in Tweed Stripes.  I have added, more like scattered, beads throughout the fringe which adds a delightful sparkle.

Prism Scarf

Fun and vibrant purple glass beads match the exuberantly hued yarn.  No winter drab here!



To see more pictures visit our Meduseld Store.

Meduseld Worsted Romney Yarn on FibreTown

Meduseld worsted romney yarn

The most recent FibreTown podcast showed two of Meduseld’s yarns.  Emily Estrada, with FibreTown, will be offering a choice of either to the winner of a drawing she will have when she reaches 100 members on her Ravelry group.  As of today her group called fiber town podcast has 91 members, so it won’t be long.  Make sure you go and join up.  It is a fun, active group where people share their FO’s (finished objects) and their WIP’s (works in progress)  Emily has many skills that she shares and its a good way to learn about some of the yarns and rovings that are available.

One of the yarns Emily showed was Meduseld’s Worsted Romney yarn in 200 yard skeins.  Here I have made some swatches that show how it knits and crochets.  But first, a picture of its luxurious drape.

Meduseld Worsted Yarn

The first swatch was knit on U.S. size 7 knitting needles which would be 4.5 mm.  This worsted yarn has approximately 12 wraps and the suggested needle size is between 7 and 9 – U.S.  As you can see in the picture, it has remarkable sheen.  This swatch has some stretch and has a lovely handle.

Worsted Romney Knit Swatch

The next swatch was crocheted on a size G (4mm) hook, and created a nice tight fabric.  The stitches are all double crochet.  You could certainly use a larger hook, and projects made with this should work up quickly.

Worsted Romney Crocheted


We will be listing this yarn on for the members who want to be able to identify it with their projects.  It is available to buy in our store here


Meals at Meduseld – Bread and Pizza

I recently stayed at my friend Barbara’s wonderful Bed and Breakfast in Longdale Furnace, Virginia called the Firmstone Manor.   It is a beautiful pre-victorian manor and she always makes me feel at home.  While I was there, I was supposed to give a lesson in bread making, but the threat of snow on the roads forced me to come home early.  So, I am going to cover some bread making basics, and transition it to pizza, one of the easiest and most delicious foods to make.  Since it is Lent, I am providing a vegetarian version as well.  

Sausage Pizza

Sausage Pizza

 Basic Bread Recipe

2 cups warm water

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablesoons sugar

4 level cups King Arthur Bread Flour

2 teaspoons yeast (I use Fleischmanns Instant Yeast in one pound packages )

I like to take all the above ingredients and stir them in a food grade bucket that I have left over from some coconut oil I ordered from Radiant Life Catalog.  I put this bucket of stirred dough in the fridge and let it sit a couple of days.  If you double the recipe, you can just grab a chunk of dough for rolls, bread, etc.  whenever you need it.  As it sits, the flavor improves, becoming more like a sour dough.


An extremely important note:  Do NOT use tap water for baking bread.  The chlorine in the water will kill the yeast cells and your bread will not rise.  I know alot of city dwellers who have said they cannot bake bread, but its the water’s fault, not theirs.  I don’t recommend distilled water either because it has no remaining minerals.   Try a spring or mineral water (not carbonated).  We use well water and always have good results.

Take your dough and let it come back to room temperature.  It will start to rise.  Knead in additional flour if it is too sticky, otherwise you can start shaping the dough into the bread style you need.  The first picture below is how the dough looks straight from the bucket.  The second picture shows how it looks after it has been kneaded.

Dough from Bucket

Dough from Bucket

Kneaded Dough

Shape the dough.  Here I am going to make it into baguettes and sandwich loaves.  Let it rise until doubled.

Baguette - Slash the dough so it can rise.

Baguette – Slash the dough so it can rise.

In 400 degree oven, bake bread for about 1/2 hour until golden brown.  I start with convection for the first five minutes.  This is optional but does give an extra “puff.” to make the loaf rise more. 

Finished Loaves

Finished Loaves

Now, say you want to make pizza instead of bread?  Easy.  Each recipe I gave above will yield two loaves, or two large pizzas.  And I don’t mean those weeny things they call a large pizza now-a-days.  Sorry y’all but a twelve inch pizza isn’t “large.” 

Take an appropriately sized piece of dough and roll it out flat with a rolling pin and plenty flour.  If you look at my dough baguette picture above you can see that I have a silicon rolling mat.  I strongly recommend one, and a benefit to these is that they have markings to show how large you have rolled your dough out. 

I place my rolled out dough on a pizza pan that I have covered first with a small amount of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.  This makes the crust more flavorful.  Now start with your toppings.  We use Muir Glen chopped tomatoes as our sauce, but I am in the market for a new brand since they gave money to the side opposing GMO labeling in California.  If I am wrong, please correct me.  In the picture below is a ham and pineapple pizza.  Cover with generous amounts of shredded cheese, and allow your pizzas to stand for fifteen minutes for the yeast to rise. 

Bake at 400 for ten minutes and then reduce temperature to 375.  Bake another approximately 20 minutes until cheese is a golden brown and center is cooked.

For a delightful vegetarian pizza, we omit the tomato sauce, using instead this delightful Roland Truffle Cream – I put it in my Amazon store.  Spread about one tablespoon over a medium (12 inch) pizza.

Roland Truffle Cream

Roland Truffle Cream

In a small pan cook sliced onions and bulb fennel with water until almost tender.  Drain well and spread on pizza dough.  Cover with generous amount of shredded cheese and proceed with directions for pizza above.  Yum.  Truffle. 

Note to pizzerias:  This is a LARGE pizza.

A True Large Pizza

A True Large Pizza



FibreTown Follows up on Jacob Roving

Emily Estrada of FibreTown, follows up on her January 30, 2013 about Meduseld’s Jacob roving.  She demonstrates the yarn and the wool hat that she has made out of the roving.   You see it in this podcast:

 FibreTown Podcast February 13, 2013

Emily discusses an upcoming prize give-away she will have when she reaches 100 members.  The prize will be Meduseld yarn.  Sincere thanks to Emily for telling everyone about our farm!

You can visit Emily’s blog at:, and you can find her on ravelry as chainoffools.

Here’s her St. Valentine’s Day greeting…


Chainoffools St. Valentine's Day Greeting

Chainoffools St. Valentine’s Day Greeting

We have added some more Romney roving to the store, as well as some 100 percent Romney in worsted weight.  These are soft, shiny, 200 yard skeins that weigh   3.5 oz (approx 100g) each, and are priced at only $15.00 per skein.  If you want to buy more than three skeins, please email and I will take off $1.50 per skein.  Click on the Meduseld Farm Store link to the right.


Romney yarn - 200 yard skeins

Romney yarn – 200 yard skeins

A few weeks ago, I showed everyone how to dye wool using Cushing Perfection Dyes.  One of the colors I used was a brilliant canary yellow, although they had it called “chartreuse.”  I had visions in my head of carding it with an aquamarine that I had done last year, and I thought that triple plying those would create a beautiful, springlike effect.  Well, no more….

My yarn!  Ahhhh!

My yarn! Ahhhh!

Yes!  My dog, Beowulf, had other ideas.  He took the bag of fleece off the front porch and dragged it out into the yard to play with!  Bad doggy! 

 Happy St. Valentine’s Day to everyone!


Meduseld Jacob Roving Featured in Fibretown



We were thrilled (and grateful) to learn that Meduseld’s Jacob wool was recently covered in Emily Estrada’s blog, Fibretown.  I remember Emily at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival and I think there’s another bottle of maple syrup in her future:)  She discusses the roving and even our maple syrup at about minute 13:00.   Watch until she talks about the maple syrup!

FibreTown Video

Emily is a serious fiber artist with many skills and she profiles projects and different kinds of yarn and roving that she uses in her knitting, weaving, and spinning projects. 

She is also on where she has a strong following.   On Ravelry, look for chainoffools in people or fibre town podcast in groups.

And here is a link to her blog.

We still have some roving available in our store.  This particular roving was a mix of two lavender grey jacobs we have.  These two Jacobs  are also the source for Meduseld’s pale grey Jacob yarn.  Click on the link to the Meduseld Farm Store to to your right.  In the next few days, you can also find the maple syrup :)

Meduseld Yarn – Friesian and Dorset Down

We are going to discuss the two breeds, East Friesian and Dorset Down, together since their fibres are similar and we combine them to make Meduseld’s soft wool.  

The East Friesian Sheep are relative newcomers to this country, having only been imported to this continent in 1994.  They come from north Germany where they were bred as dual, and arguably, tri-purpose sheep.  These sheep are known as dairy sheep and produce much of the fine milk in Europe for sheep milk cheese such as Romano.  They are used for meat as well, and if you are fortunate to have animals with good fleeces, they make good yarn.   They have short hair on their heads and distinctive hairless tails.  If bred with other breeds, they usually increase the amount of lambs the ewes will produce.   

East Friesian Ram

East Friesian Ram

The Dorset Downs are also rare sheep in this country, and usually when I mention the word “Dorset” people think about the large white meat sheep.  I usually have to explain that this is not the meat breed.  These are sheep specifically bred for their baby-soft wool.  Like the other Dorsets, they originate from Dorset, England.  Their fleece has more resemblance to a Merino than a Dorset meat sheep and that is what makes such  soft yarn.  You can hold this against your neck and feel no itch.  Dorset Downs have brown faces and are polled (hornless).

Dorset Down ewe

Dorset Down ewe


In the picture below, I have placed samples of the washed fleeces of Friesian (right) and Dorset Down (left) side by side.  The wool is finely crimped, the Dorset having a less defined crimp.  Both resemble cotton.

 freisian fleece

Since the fiber is a finer micron (the measure of the thickness of each strand) the yarn that these sheep combined yield is soft and more closely resembles a springy cotton than a wool.  This is a yarn that can be used directly on the skin.  It is ideal for baby apparel, and for items that touch your skin, like scarves and hat.  It holds its shape very well and it perfect for Fair Isle type knitting and children’s sweaters.  Meduseld’s Friesian/Dorset yarn is a triple ply worsted and we have it in several colors in our store.

Meduseld Friesian Yarn

Meduseld Friesian Yarn


This wool does felt easily.  If you are trying to make felted items this is ideal.  If not however, care instructions for your finished garment are extremely important.  Absolutely no machine washing or drying.  Clean the garment in cool water with a delicate laundry soap.  Rinse and wring gently.  You can roll it up in a towel to extract more water, and lay the garment flat to dry.

Call or email for a free yarn sample card!

First Lamb of 2013!

Today, on the Feast of St. Romuald, we welcome our first lamb of the 2013 lambing cycle.  He is a darling boy out of Lisl, a pure bred Jacob, and Samson, a Romney ram.  Say hi to Hans!




Rendering Lard

Waste not, want not.  Timeless advice we adhere to.  In this case, we have purchased a butchered pig from our butcher.  We are using the layers of fat next to the skin and throughout in order to render it into lard for cooking for the next several months.  This also makes it possible to use everything except the oink.

We had a lovely snowy day, and the large soft flakes made the world look like a giant snowglobe.


We learned to render lard about fifteen years ago from neighbors we had at a previous farm.  They were true locals having been born and raised in that area.  When we first met them their farm did not have an indoor bathroom and they used the outhouse.  They butchered several hogs each year, and cured their own meat in a curing shed built specifically for that purpose.  It was an incredible learning experience, to help them on butchering day, and the camaraderie and joviality of the day always made it something to look forward to.

It may be difficult for some to see this the same way, and I understand.  However, one thing that stood out to me was that in these old-fashioned butcherings, there was absolutely no waste.   From the head, which they boiled to make Head Cheese, all the way to the tail which went in the lard rendering, every portion of the animal was used. 

It is a good idea to do the cooking outside, since boiling fat can generate a lot of splattering grease.  But we are going to start indoors in order to cut the meat.  We are starting with the pork scraps provided by the butcher.  In addition to all the nice cuts of meat and sausage, we also received all the belly fat and skin pieces, which have lots of fat attached to them.  Those are the parts you can buy in the grocery store as “pork rinds” those fluffy salty bits of pork.  These scraps have a long way to go to look like that.

pork scraps


The smaller you cut the pieces, the faster and more thoroughly they will render.   We cut them into approximately one-inch (2.25 cm) pieces.   The fat is easiest to cut if it is still quite cold and firm. 


pork diced


Then we move outside to boil and reduce these pieces.  This demands constant supervision, since the goal is to have the boil hot enough to extract the fat from the pieces, but not to burn the fat.  There is also the risk of fire so its best to keep a close eye on this process.  When cooked long enough, the skin pieces will start to “puff” like the store rinds.

pork cooking

When the pieces are a deep golden brown and starting to puff, they are removed and placed in a lard press.   These presses are getting harder to come by, but there are still some suppliers that carry them.   The lard press can also be used for making apple cider, so it is a handy dual purpose machine to have around.  The press exerts considerable pressure to the cooked pieces and extracts the fat out which pours into a large pot.  In the picture below, you can in the bowl see the pressed rinds in the shape of a disk. 

 pork press


Finally we filter and put the rendered lard into containers.   Some farmer supply stores sell tins made specifically for this.  They are usually large and cumbersome, so we have found that cookie tins work very well.  If you decide to use cookie tins, make sure that the container is not leaking as you pour in the hot fat.  We pour the fat through a cheese cloth in order to filter out the last bits of rind.  These are the coveted “cracklings’ that made the Ingalls children so happy in the Laura Ingalls series of books.  We put the containers outside again to cool quickly, and we are left with beautiful white cooking and baking lard.

 lard done

If I get a chance in the next several days, I’ll provide my lard-based pie crust recipe.  Any questions?  Email!

EU addresses bee problems

Einstein is popularly quoted as saying that if bees disappear, humans will follow shortly after.  Considering the vast numbers of trees and plants that exist that need pollination to produce their fruits and seeds, this is not an exaggeration.

Unfortunately, in this country special interests dominate much of the decision making and usually, there is a direct relationship between the size of the organization and its influence.  In Europe, they have displayed some impartiality to the special interests of big-agra, and many countries of Europe had banned GMOs, rGBH (a GMO growth hormone used to increase the production of milk in cows) and now the latest –  Stepping up to the bat in protecting bees, the EU has called for the restriction of pesticides that are harmful to bees.



While our own government agencies such as the USDA and EPA have not called for a ban or restriction on pesticides, each of us can still do our part to reduce their use in this country.  Find alternative ways to handle pests, encourage beneficial insects,  make habitats more acceptable for birds who can eat their weight in insects, and buy organic produce to encourage more and more farmers to join the pesticide-free lifestyle.

The full article is here on the BBC.