Wattle Fence, Crocheted Vest, and Village Green Network

Several things to discuss today.

You may remember the first wattle fence article with input from the Frontier Culture Museum.  At the time, I advanced the theory with my husband that the wattles would create a cooler area on one side and a microclimate of warmth on the other.  Well, I can’t confirm my entire theory yet, since we have yet to finish the fence :)  Lack of cooperation with the weather I say, but none-the-less, we have been working on raising the other side.  I know there are lots of global warming alarmists who insist the planet is getting warmer, but we had snow in October and snow in March, which makes 6 months of snow, and I thought winter was generally three months longs, plus or minus, but I digress….

So, despite all the gaps between the branches, and all the sun that it still permits to go through, the snow last week confirmed part of my theory.

wattlesnow

 

We had highs in the fifties both Saturday and Sunday and experienced almost a full melt of the snow.  Almost!  Here is the one portion of the garden where the wattle is complete.  I know where my spinach and lettuce are going this year :)

Second, I finished a fun little project, something I had wanted to try lately, one of the little jackets or vest crocheted in the round.  This was made in a size small out of 100 percent mercerised cotton from Greece.  It has a lovely sheen and a ribbon-like feel.   The vest is available in the Meduseld Store.

roundroseflat

 

 

Spring Planting

While we still have snow on the ground from the late snow on March 6, today we are hauling out our seed box and starting flats of seeds for this year’s garden.

Even for an experienced gardener, each year contains a little trial and error.  Sometimes a lot, like last year.  I tried some new gardening methods from a book called Gaia’s Garden (no link, I don’t recommend it) and we ended up with some setbacks in the garden.  Maybe that’s an understatement.  The book recommended multiple layers of mulch, from straw, to compost, cardboard and finally shredded mulch.  So we can all agree that weeds were not a big problem.  However, all those layers of mulch breaking down made the conditions too acidic for the plants, and most had failure to thrive.  The plants that managed to grow became insect candy.  Now, since we’ve been growing organic for many years, we are used to a certain level of insects, but this is ridiculous!  One thing that grew well in this soil was turnips.  After figuring out that even the children will eat turnips if you use enough Romano cheese, it ended up being a beneficial crop. 

The book I mentioned advocated permaculture gardening, a method I strongly endorse in general.  This method encourages the cycles of plants and animals and humans in such a way that each benefits the other and creates a system where each sustains each other.  Monoculture – planting only one variety of plant in an area – is discouraged for requiring extra fertilizer and making it very easy for insects to take over a crop.  Permaculture encourages planting diverse things in an area so that insects have a more difficult time finding the type of plant it feasts on.  The diverse plants each have different nutrient fixing properties (like beans with nitrogen) and the plants can improve the soil instead of depleting it.  Permaculture also advocates the creation of microclimates that help each plant to thrive.  For example, placing a stone next to a delicate plant will give it additional heat at night and help it grow.  We are able to keep a large fig tree by planting it on the south side of the house – a microclimate.  I find that Sepp Holtzer has wonderful advice since he’s been planting this way since before it was called permaculture.

The areas of the garden where I ran out of all these mulching materials did much better and here are some of the gorgeous vegetables we were able to grow last year.  All pictures below are from our garden and not stock photos:)

 veggies

This year the mulched areas have had time to break down further over the winter and I am hopeful that this will yield ideal growing conditions.  We’ll do some soil amendments recommended by Eliot Coleman in Four Season Harvest (a book I highly recommend!) and keep our fingers crossed for a good growing season.

So, with my husband next to me talking about scranlettin tipcklepenny corner (can anyone guess the source?) lets start planting!  The best seeds and value are from GourmetSeed.com.  We can’t say enough about this company, and this blog links to them on the right column as well as from our farm website.  They import most of their seeds from Europe which is a benefit since Europe has so consistently banned GMO crops.  That means we don’t have to worry about cross-pollination with undesirables.  The quantity of seeds that you receive for the money is outstanding.  I frequently make comparisons with the other seed catalogs we receive, that will usually have 50-100 cabbage seeds in a packet.  For the same amount of money, the Gourmet Seed packets will usually have about a thousand.  I could not make this up – start comparing some seed websites for your self!

gourmetseed.com

gourmetseed.com

First, the easy ones that can go directly in the garden right now.  As soon as the melting snow reveals the black earth, we can start planting the hardiest varieties such as fava beans and peas.  Fava beans are delicious, and are much better known in Europe than they are here.  They are a wonderful way to put early vegetables on the table.  The peas are hardy and a favorite with our family, and need to go in now.  If planted too late, the hot summers here will stunt them. 

We will start the seed trays in the conservatory, although we could do them in the hoop houses as well.  The temperature in the conservatory is much higher though, and the seeds will germinate more quickly.  The conservatory is also much more humid and the seeds are less likely to dry out.  You can start seeds successfully in a sunny window – morning sun is best.

Eliot Coleman has his own recipe for making soil blocks, but we do not use those.  We have an abundance of seed trays we were given, and we recycle those each year.   For this operation we do use the organic seed starter mix which seems to prevent damping off – the early death of a seedling from some unknown cause, most likely bacterial or fungal.   We will start with hardier varieties of plants, Brassica family plants like cabbages and broccoli, lettuces and spinach.  In a few weeks we will start the tender vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. 

Here are the seed trays that we have planted today – five trays with 72 cells each should make a good start for the garden in a few weeks.  The seeds used are radiccio, lettuces, chard, cabbages, broccoli, brussel sprouts and more. 

 100_5963

 

It was heavenly to plant the seeds only feet away from fragrant orange blossoms. 

 

orange blossoms

 

We also had another baby lamb and we are pleased to introduce Comet, in honor of Comet PanStarrs.  Here she is in her little black dress.  Her fleece is stunning and will make beautiful naturally colored yarn.

Comet - Freisian/Jacob Cross Ewe

Well, we need to go drain the well.  One of the neighbors is missing…

Meals at Meduseld – Bruschetta

Yesterday afternoon we were chatting on the phone with our Uncle Dick.  Uncle Dick always has sage advice, and his advice yesterday was to go do something fun.  On the spot, we decided to make some Bruschetta and have a glass of red wine.  So, this recipe is in your honor, Uncle Dick!

Bruschetta

This is easy to make and so much fun to eat.  It also makes terrific Lent food, if you are looking for meat-free recipes.

Ingredients:

Bread – we used our basic bread recipe but switched some spelt flour with the white and made baguettes

olive oil or cooking grease of your choice

4 large tomatoes – diced finely

2 heaping tablespoons pesto

medium onion – diced finely

cilantro – chopped

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

parmesian or romano cheese – grated

salt and pepper to taste

Slice the bread thinly and toast in a skillet with olive oil or fat of your choice.  We used lard and our wrought iron skillet.  Toast both sides until golden-brown.

Toasting Bread

 

Combine all the remaining ingredients except for the grated cheese.  We made the pesto here with basil we grew last year and it keeps very well in the freezer.  Our pesto contains garlic, so it’s not listed as a separate ingredient. 

The cilantro is still growing fresh in our hoophouses, where it has withstood 11 degree (f) nights, and still managed to grow a bit.  We keep all sorts of herbs in one of the hoop houses and its such a pleasure to pluck fresh rosemary and thyme in the middle of winter.

Bruschetta Topping

Spread this heavenly topping on each piece of bread, top with grated cheese and serve!  We never have left-overs.

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.

Dawn

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

100_5927

 

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. 

cloudshawlback

 

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!

prismshawlfringe

 

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 Ravelry.com 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.

doughbucket

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: http://fibretown.blogspot.com/, 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

logo_meduseld150B

 

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 Ravelry.com 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.  http://fibretown.blogspot.com/

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!