It’s been quite a month for fiber activities. It finally cooled down, although the autumn continues to actually be warmer than usual. Much nicer to work with wool when it’s not humid and hot!
I have had a list of fiber projects as long as my arm for many years. Some of them on the list are knitting projects, but many more are spinning projects (I am not going into the weaving project list right now, that would be embarrassing!). And so I have begun to prioritize them. (Of course, spinning projects turn into knitting or weaving projects in the final analysis…)
First on my spinning list has been to finish a beautiful 50/50 mohair/wool blend from Friends Folly Farm. Last week I finished spinning up the pound of singles, now it’s in the queue for plying.
Second on the spinning list is to card and spin the beautiful Jacob lamb’s fleece that I split with a friend 2 years ago. As soon as we received it from our friend Debbie at Hearts of the Meadow Farm in West Virginia, I washed it and carefully put it away. It has been floating around in the back of my mind for quite awhile, and I am very excited to say that I have begun to process it. (Although, true to form, when I broke out my drum carder, it turned out to be so dirty that it took about a week to finally get it cleaned out. My husband took it to work and used an industrial grade compressor to blow out all the little bits that were lurking in there for quite a few years. So that put me back a little on the project).
Project three in the spinning department is the Shetland fleece that came home with me from NYS&Wool this year. Yum! I can hardly wait. That is definitely #3 in line.
And number 4: the lovely Romney/silk roving that I brought home from Rhinebeck. Two pounds of it means that I really need to hunker down and commit to the project, and I feel like that will be a very good mid-winter project. Particularly if The Polar Vortex returns to darken the doorstep!
I have been hoarding a bag of really beautiful beets from a friend’s garden. My plan right along has been to make a nice pot of winter borscht. I have not made summer or winter borscht in a few years.
When I make borscht in the summer it is a very simple recipe: mostly just beets, some veggie stock or chicken stock, some onions and it’s pretty much done. Eat it cold with sour cream or yogurt, and it’s just perfect.
My winter recipe, however, is something that I rarely make because it is quite the time consuming affair – have to start it early in the day. And so I just have to mention it again! Retirement has offered me the opportunity to make a recipe like this on a weekday. What fun :*)
There are hundreds of variations on borscht, and no one agrees on much when it comes to a definitive recipe. My mother always used beef stock in her winter borscht, but no actual meat in the soup, and she never added chopped cabbage. I have used meat in it for the last 30 years because my husband can’t stand to eat a meal without meat tucked in somewhere. (If you want to make it a kosher meal, obviously you would not add sour cream to it at the end). I have begun shredding the beets instead of dicing them up more recently… I saw it in someone’s recipe, perhaps one from Joan Nathan, as I like her stuff.
Anyhow, I started the whole process about 7:30 this morning, and it’s still simmering away. The cleanup continues, although there is no help for my beety red hands! Even though I am looking forward to this for dinner tonight, it’s definitely better the next day. My one poor bit of planning is that I didn’t set up bread yesterday for baking up today. Poor us! Maybe biscuits will have to do for tonight. Such problems!
And so October is in and we finally got a little rain. I don’t even think it amounted to 0.5,” but at least it was something… we even have a few puddles in the driveway! That’s quite a novelty for us this summer.
Since I need to be finished with milking before I go away toward the end of this month, to that end I have been spacing out the milking schedule a little more and more. I know some folks go from twice a day, or every 12 hours, to an 18 hour divide (which means the middle of the night), but I back it off to once a day as I am lowering the feed ration a bit. The first few days are tough, lots of milk in that udder and almost tough to get it emptied before the girls rebel and want off the stand.
And so I am working on this right now. I don’t want to stop milking, I love the milk that we get in the autumn, the curds are larger and we get more cheese for our efforts out of each 3 gallon batch I make. But this year family obligations and another weekend (a fun weekend), have conspired against me! Two 4-day weekends in a row that I will be out of town. Neither my husband or my son milk. Even if one of them started, the girls wouldn’t be trusting them all that quickly. The milk and cheese thing really is my specialty, so I plan accordingly.
I have been milking just once a day for the past 5 days, and I did my first 36 hour separation today. I won’t milk again until Tuesday morning. On Wednesday the girls are going to be wormed in preparation for breeding, and that will effectively mean the end of the milk usage, even though I will continue milking farther and farther apart. We have a 7 to 9 day withdrawal on the wormers that we typically use, so by the time that is up, so will the milk!
Another year’s cycle is coming around, and as much as I love Joni Mitchell’s rendition of The Circle Game, I am kind of sad to see this part of the year go into dry dock. But, then we have the excitement of the Breeding Game to attend to! Farming is all about the yearly cycles, and each one is exciting in its own way. And this year I get to experience it all without the stress of the day job. Yay for retirement :*)
Into retirement, which still does not feel like retirement! It feels like most of my summer breaks, although I am not on a roll trying to fit all the “fun” things into a very short time span, and am enjoying the lovely summer we are actually having in coastal Maine this year.
I am now into milking, cheesemaking, training pigeons, and spending as much time with our grandson as possible. We love to swim and go to the beach, so that’s been a lot of fun. I am trying to get myself into a productive schedule, but have not succeeded yet. That extra cup of coffee on the back steps, smelling the ocean air, is too powerful to resist. I have not gotten much done upstairs where I need to get going on organizing the fiber space. But I have been doing some spinning on a beautiful wool/mohair blend from Friends Folly Farm. My eczema got really bad toward the end of the schoolyear with all the stress, so I couldn’t handle fiber for awhile. But my hands are almost all better, and I am trying to get to a little fiber every day.
We think. Tomorrow is predicted to be one of the coldest days of the season. High of 24F. Today it was in the 40s. And it rained. And rained. I know we have had a few lovely days in the past week or two, but the overall feeling is of the grey sky and damp. My arthritis is killing me. It definitely does not feel like December.
Enough complaining, though. It is past the Solstice, and we are still just wearing light jackets. Not too shabby! My husband keeps the wood stove going, and dollars to donuts, we have to keep opening the back door or the windows. (I get where he is coming from; he hates to have to restart a fire everyday, so he wants to just keep it humming along. Sometimes that humming is to the tune of 80F in the house. Too hot for me!) So it is this season. Warm so far. It feels more like a spring mud season than the end of December. Mud and water galore in the paddocks. The donkey didn’t want to go into her shelter in the last few days, and we finally realized that it was too wet where we had placed it over the summer. We moved it this morning, thanks Sam, and now she is cozying into it.
Anyhow, it’s the holiday break and I am loving it. Sleeping in until 6:30 a.m. Lingering over coffee in the morning. Not getting dressed until I have to. Reading into the night. I must be in training for retirement. Hmm. Sounds good to me!
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!