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Long Island Project Assist Autism Knit-a-Thon – Yarn on Sale!

Meduseld has donated yarn for the 6th Annual Long Island Project Assist Knit-a-thon.  Here is the description from The Village Knitter group on Ravelry.

Sunday, June 8th Knit-a-Thon! Long Island Project Assist will be sponsoring their Sixth Annual Knit-a-Thon at the shop to raise awareness and donations for the developmentally disabled and autistic population they service. Come join us or make a donation directly online. Long Island Project Assist supports the YAI Network and works hard to ensure that people with developmental and learning disabilities have access to the support and services that they need to live productive, independent and healthy lives.

In honor of the event, the two yarns Meduseld has donated will be on sale in the Meduseld store.  They are two of the sport weight Romney yarns in Monet’s Reflection  and  Monet’s Winter Sunset.  Normally $13.50 a skein, they are now only $10.00 each until June 10, 2014, or until stock runs out, whichever occurs first.

If you’d like to donate directly to the Knit-A-Thon, use this link.

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2014 Lambs for Sale

Meduseld had lovely lambs again this spring and we are making some of them available for those who would like to purchase diverse breeds with good fleeces.

Blue-eyed Friesian Cross

Blue-eyed Friesian Cross

Breeds represented include Romney and Romney crosses, Dorset Down Crosses, Friesian crosses, and Jacobs.  The Romney are known for their luxurious shiny wool.  The Dorset Downs are not to be confused with Dorset meat sheep.  The Dorset Downs produce an exceptionally soft wool.  The Friesian are dairy sheep with soft, shorter fleeces and they have contributed to the soft yarn made here.  Finally, the Jacobs and Jacob crosses show the characteristic spots as well as resistance to parasites.

Romney

Romney

Some of these are extremely tame bottle fed babies, and others have been raised here by their mothers.   White, black and spotted sheep are available.  All have been wormed.  Prices range from $100 to $350.

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Please call (304) 496-9502 to set up an appointment to see our lambs!

 

 

 

 

Meduseld Morning

We have been very busy here at Meduseld.  Spring is now well underway, and we are spending extra time in the gardens, AND we joined a family yard sale this weekend.  Time to take a low-key day.  Enjoy this sunrise from a few days ago – may it give you tranquility.

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Early Signs of Spring

Spring is still dawdling although there are encouraging signs.  A hint of green is showing itself in the lawn and pastures, and buds are forming on fruit trees. 

Buds forming on apple tree

Buds forming on apple tree

Last night we enjoyed the delightful sound of tree frogs around the pond.  Get close to that pond at your own peril, though!  The geese have made their nests and do not welcome intruders!

Inside the conservatory Spring is well advanced.  Small vegetables are already forming.  We have selected parthenocarpic (self-pollinating) varieties so that we do not need a pollinator.

Zephyr Zucchini

Zephyr Zucchini

Some vegetables, such as beans, do not need a pollinator either.  Here are some pole beans in a hanging basket, ready to be harvested.

Assorted pole beans

Assorted pole beans

The Jabuticaba berries have grown so quickly you can see the change overnight.   These were not pollinated either, showing me that they will do well in the greenhouse environment, and I won’t have to pollinate these by hand with a small paint brush.

Jabuticaba berries

Jabuticaba berries

My gardenia bush normally blooms right around Easter.  Since Easter is late this year, these beauties are already in full bloom before the holiday, filling the conservatory with its sweet fragrance.

Gardenia

Gardenia

And, our experiment with growing potatoes indoors in stacking boxes is going rather well.  Here, we are already on the third layer, and the plants are still reaching up.  Since they have not set blossoms yet, I hope they are still putting out additional tuber shoots.

Potatoes in stackable boxes

Potatoes in stackable boxes

There are only two more days to use Meduseld’s exclusive discount at Sustainable Seed Company.  Remember to use Meduseld14 at checkout to get ten percent off your order!

 

 

 

 

 

Meals at Meduseld – Easy Mayonnaise

Thick, creamy mayonnaise

Thick, creamy mayonnaise

Making mayonnaise from scratch can be daunting.  The oil has to be incorporated very gradually into the eggs or it will separate.  I’ve avoided making it in the past because of the mess it would make with my blender.  Oil and eggs would spray all over the kitchen as I poured oil into the running blender.  What a mess!  It seemed to take more time to clean than to make the mayonnaise!

Recently, I decided I had to commit to making mayonnaise from scratch again.  The list of ingredients on the store brands, not to mention the exorbitant price, was enough to convince me to find a better way to make this delicious treat.  And did I ever find one!    A hand blender!

I have  an inexpensive Hamilton Beach hand blender (in Meduseld’s Amazon store) that I use for making Smokey Pumpkin Soup (recipe for that soon).  Using this nifty tool, you can make your mayonnaise in a wide mouth quart jar that can go straight in the refrigerator.  The only thing to clean is the hand blender attachment. 

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First, the list of ingredients for a very basic, thick and creamy mayonnaise.  Then I’ll provide some variations.

In the bottom of the jar, place:

4 egg yolks (try to get local free-range eggs for freshness)

scant teaspoon salt

Blend these together briefly.

With the blender running, very slowly pour a trickle of one cup oil into the jar.  Oil options are: olive, sunflower, grape seed, and blends of these and other oils.  I do not recommend using soy since it can increase estrogen levels (http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/whole-soy-story).   This is very serious for men!

As you pour in the oil, you will notice that the mix will start to get thicker.  When you have added all the oil, you should have a thick mayonnaise.  Now, add two tablespoons apple cider vinegar and blend.  Voila!  It’s that easy!

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That is a very basic version, not unlike the brand Dukes.  It you want to add some flavor, you can mix one teaspoon mustard in with the eggs.  You can add seasonings such as herbs and garlic.  Or you can substitute half a freshly squeezed lemon for the vinegar.

Maple Syrup

Extremely limited amounts of Meduseld’s maple syrup are available!

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This year gathering the maple sap was late and difficult.  The extreme cold temperatures made the run later than usual and with the excessive snow it was difficult to get equipment up into the woods.  This may be your only chance to get some syrup since it sells  very quickly!

A note about shipping!  The rates are set by U.S. P.S. and we have no say!  If you are charged for more shipping than it actually costs, I will reimburse the difference.  If you are local, I can hold your syrup and arrange for pickup.  You can buy Meduseld’s maple syrup here!

 

Irony at Mount Vernon

Irony: a situation that is strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected.   Merriam-Webster Dictionary

As part of a recent trip to Alexandria, Virginia, my son Gavin and I made a quick stop at Mount Vernon, home of President George Washington on the Potomac River.  I have been to see it several times since arriving in the DC area in 1987, and it has changed substantially since the last time I was there by adding an enormous visitors center and underground museum.  These new buildings and exhibits expanded on the view that I had held of George Washington, a view shaped by history books in public schools.

Elaborate Boxwood Garden at Mount Vernon

Elaborate Boxwood Garden at Mount Vernon

Gavin and I waited in line with hundreds of other freezing people to see a glimpse of the house.   We noticed a sign that explained the siding of the house.  While it has the appearance of a stone facade, it is actually wooden siding that had fine sand sprayed on the paint while it was still wet, giving the illusion of masonry.  Our own home has HardiPlank siding, a concrete siding that is imprinted to look like wood.  And I laughed and thought it was ironic; George creating the illusion of  making wood look like stone,  and all the modern homes with vinyl and concrete siding to look like wood. 

It was nothing compared to the next observation.

The tourist line wound through the opulent two storyed dining room with its ornate ceiling and carved marble mantle, back out onto the veranda overlooking the Potomac River, and back into the main hallway.  The main hallway has another of George’s illusions.  Not content with the inexpensive look of pine and oak that were available, the walls had been faux finished to look like mahogany.  I scanned the room and heard the docent describing a key hanging in a prominent position in the hall – the actual key to the Bastille in France

The Bastille is a symbol of the French Revolution.  In July 14, 1789, revolutionary protestors stormed the Bastille, freeing prisoners and killing the governor.  People protested the alleged mistreatment of the peasant class by the aristocracy, and thus ensued a horrid period in history, where people were beheaded solely for who they were.  The revolutionaries promised a better life and living conditions for the common man.

And suddenly I saw George Washington in a completely new light.  Here was a man who supported the French Revolution, to the point of holding the Bastille Key as one of his most prized possessions.  As in this country’s revolution, he supported the rights of common man over the so-called abuses of the crown and aristocracy.  He joined in those condemning the excesses of the aristocracy, their opulence and comforts.

EXCEPT AT HOME.

This advocate of the common man had 123 slaves at his death.  Their treatment was terrible and their living conditions worse.  A newspaper advertisement from his time showed that four of his slaves had escaped their abysmal conditions and he was advertising for their return.   Here is a picture of the men’s slave quarters at Mount Vernon.

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The irony struck – hard.  This revered man condemned aristocracy for their treatment of PAID workers who were FREE and could own their own PRIVATE property, while perpetuating a system where he OWNED people, never giving them a day’s wages, providing the barest necessities while he lived in opulence, and only freeing them in his Last Will and Testament.  How convenient.

From the moment of that revelation, the rest of the tour was not enjoyable.  From my new perspective, the luxurious objects from France throughout the home and museum just reminded me of that hypocrisy, and the irony that this nation holds him up in high esteem while condemning a class that treated its subjects better.  King George the Third is hated and reviled, although he had no slaves and all who worked for him were compensated, while history books in this country hold up as a hero a man who rejected that system and treated people even worse.

The museum was filled with priceless treasures, Mrs. Washington’s jewelry, furniture and objects de’ art dating to the French Revolution and before.  Quite frankly, George lived like a King.  And I could not look at these treasures without thinking that many of these  stolen objects were looted from the homes of  innocent people.  People decapitated without trials, held in the temple prison  without charges, phony witness and false accusations being the norm.  And I thought of the slaves under “King” George Washington, required to live among these exquisite stolen items, wishing for their own freedom. 

Isn’t it ironic…

 

Starlings

The other day I was on the phone with my friend Esther and observed that the starlings were starting to check out our house for crevices in order to start their new nests.  The conversation turned toward the way that people see them, mostly as a nuisance for farmers.   Even the Audubon Society’s website does not mention anything interesting or spectacular about the birds.  Esther  was surprised when I shared some stories of starlings I have raised.

First some background.  The name is actually European Starling or Sturnus Vulgaris (hardly complimentary).  One hundred of them were released around the turn of the last century in Boston, MA by an individual who wanted to introduce to North America all the birds that had been mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays – at least that was one of the versions I have read.  And the story would be consistent – since Shakespeare does mention the starling in Henry IV.

The Washington Post carried an article in which they show the efforts to annihilate this bird from this continent.  The article discusses shooting, poisoning, and trapping these amazing talking birds.  Yes, I said TALKING.

I have raised several of these delightful, intelligent companions.  They are a member of the Mynah Bird family and capable of imitating speech.  Even in the wild, if you listen to one in the morning, you can hear them imitate the calls of assorted birds.  Well, they can imitate the human voice even better than parrots.  I have raised a macaw, a Senegal, an african grey, and none could come close in speech to the starling.

The first was a rehabilitation project given me by “Joan” who was a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Overwhelmed with animals to care for, she apprenticed me for several.  I brought home “Francis” who had suffered enough that he promptly lost all the feathers on his head.  With care they grew back.  What we did not expect though, was his intelligence and conversation skills.  Francis quickly learned his name, calling “Francis, Francesco” through the house.  He learned all our habits, and could anticipate where we would go in the house and would fly there before we got there.  He even learned to land on a water faucet – any of them in the house – as a signal to us that he wanted water.  I would cup some water in my hand and he would drink straight from it. 

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Years later I got another starling baby,and this one I named Terpsichore after the muse for song and dance.  It suited her personality perfectly.  She was joyful and sang constantly.  Her favorite words were “Terpsichore, Terpsichore, I love you Terpsichore,” said in exactly my voice, which unnerved visitors who did not know about her.  It was strange for them to look at me in one room and hear my voice coming from another.  One morning I was drinking coffee outside  and something startled her, and she flew away.  She never came back, but I felt in my heart that she was alright, and most likely causing a sensation in someone else’s yard.

I once raised a batch of three babies together and since they were raised with other birds they did not acquire the speech.  But they were endearing and closely bonded.  Once they fledged they were free to fly about outside.  They would greet me when I came home from work by flying out of the trees and landing on my head. 

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It turned out I was not the only person with the talking starlings.  I learned about another through a book called Arnie the Darling Starling by Margaret Sigl Corbo.  It was a beautiful story about her saving, and becoming attached to this little darling bird.  I was privileged to have a brief correspondence about our birds with Margaret.  Here is a link to her Amazon Biography page and I strongly recommend the book. 

Starlings are not protected, so you can raise them.  And you may even be doing a farmer a favor by having less out there eating their crops (and save it from poisoning…).  But the biggest winner is the person who gets to share the companionship of one of these incredible birds.

 

 

Jabuticaba

Exciting news in the conservatory!  First jabuticaba blossoms starting to push out!  These are the small greenish white “nubs” you can see on the branches below.

 

Jabuticaba

Jabuticaba

Jabuticaba is an unusual tree in that it bears its dark purple grape sized fruits on its trunk and stems.  The tree is native to Brazil and attempts to naturalize it in warmer regions of this country have failed.  It is excellent fresh, and can also be used for wine and jams.  There are even claims of cancer fighting properties in the fruits.  The tree has a graceful shape that can that be trained as bonsai, and the leaves are similar to the olive leaves.

Elsewhere in the conservatory, the orange tree has a few lingering blossoms, but look at what’s next; Gardenia!

Gardenia buds forming

Gardenia buds forming

And while the hibiscus does not have a fragrance like the oranges and the gardenia, it is stunning none-the-less. 

Hibiscus

Hibiscus