Sunday, January 26, 2014

What I Did on My Winter Vacation

Last Thursday I took a class in dye for cotton at the Textile Center in Minneapolis.  Ken and I made a day of it and ran errands - the clay supply company for glaze and clay components to add to our local materials, a heat mat thermostat for seedlings, and my class.

We did three color wheels - the first in jewel tones, 

The second series were pieces added to those dyes after much of the dye was spent for a pastel series.

And the third series was from a different set of dye colors to create a "harvest" series.

I hate waste.  when we were done, I asked people to put their extra dye in my extra zip lock bags so I could bring them home and use them.. They were glad to see them go to use rather than pouring them down the drain!

I brought them home.  I weighed out denim strips I had prepared to weave into rugs and over dyed them with varying combinations of remaining dye.

This was why I took the class!  From this used denim to 

a whole new palette of options that are drying by the cook stove.  

And now dry - balls!

More Beautiful Snow!

This morning I awoke and looked out to see more snow!

We got about 4 - 5 inches of new, light powdery snow.

The forecast for tonight and tomorrow night is cold, so I went out to get out more wood into the house.

There were beautiful sow scenes all around me.  The kiln shed

The garden shed

and the pottery

I am glad we are getting snow before more cold.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ken's New Hat

I don't buy much.  And I buy even less when new.  But I bought this hat for Ken.  

Because it was a great fit (and none fit me) and it stays on his head when he reads in bed in our wood heated house.

And here he is most mornings - red long underwear, red blanket, old robe and new hat - I am glad I bought that hat.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Clearing space in January

No "before" this is a "during " photo
What did I do on my "winter vacation?"  As I did the usual - ordering seeds, tax prep, revise CSA forms - I also started to clean and clear.  Last summer we had an opportunity for help laying the beautiful oak Ken cut for flooring.  Problem: could not GET to the floor.  I promised to start working to that end.  

Rags and CSA towels
I had many boxes of rags for making rugs.  

Some of the few I have made
And gourds for shekeres, and beads for shekeres, and brewing supplies, and office supplies, and..

There used to be a piano there
For Christmas Ken set up some shelves (we used to use at pottery shows) on the main floor for rags.  He also located some bins on sale to store them in.  

Setting up the shelves displaced a pan rack.  we moved it near the front door and have some of our many baskets hanging and we will dry bunches of herbs on it.

rack on left and tiles under loom
Moving the pot rack displaced our herb and pepper drying rack.  That is now in a new spot.  And Ken improved its design and ease in setting up and storing

Then I began sorting - such a lot of stuff!  And we found a new home for the upright piano.  

Wine under blue towel, no place for chairs yet...

Space and windows began to open up in the house on the east 

New rug and space on west
and the west

The trash has been emptied MANY times
And Ken has also steadily working at making space on the top floor.  He has been sorting paper and recycling and sending periodicals to the library for sales.

Took off all the rugs but one last spring
Both of us will continue these projects (there are still many boxes and places to clear out),  but tomorrow I may take a break and start weaving!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from the Garden!  This box has salad mix, cabbage, onions, shallots garlic, squash, potatoes, celery root, kohlrabi, rutabaga, carrots and beets.

Field Notes.  Everyone thinks farmers take the winter off - hah!  Ken plants greens for the salad mix, cleans seeds he has saved, shells dry corn, shells hazelnuts, and more.  I have gotten in the bulk of the seed orders, contacted the deer damage folks for 2014 agricultural tags, started getting the CSA mailing ready, and we both are monitoring root cellar and cold storage.  This is also the time of year we look at the last season and discuss changes for the coming season.  If we only got two orders for chard all season long, should we be growing it?

This cold weather and snow have made for some hungry and desperate deer.  The dog is barking them out of the garden a couple times most nights, and they have crossed the fence in the field and are looking for food.  Ken has mulched and covered the strawberries and other long season and perennial crops, but there are no guarantees!  I have called for agricultural tags so we can reduce the population before damage is worse,  Once they make the field a stop on their route, we suffer heavy losses.  We have lost two hundred feet of beets in a single night.

From the Kitchen.  with this cold we are really going through wood.  Since I have the cook stove going, I have been doing lots of soups and stews.  I brown meat in a cast iron Dutch oven and add onions, stock and herbs.  After about an hour (depending on the size of the piece of meat) I add vegetables.  Usually this winter I have added minced celery root, and some carrots, rutabaga and kohlrabi chunks.  I then bake some potatoes. I braise some cabbage and voila - a meal.

The beets and cabbage would also make a great borscht.  I usually use chicken, chicken stock, onion, beets and cabbage in borscht.  A dollop of sour cream or yogurt tops each bowl as I serve it.  Great with a crusty rye bread.

Ken has been perfecting his brassica au gratin.  His last batch included cabbage in addition to the kohlrabi and rutabaga.  
He has also been perfecting his rutabaga pancake as the egg supply allows
And he has made all the Christmas and New Year's treats this year.  He is in the kitchen early mornings and later in the evening once it gets dark.

Happy New Year!  'Til Next Month, Judith

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year - it's WINTER.

Happy 2014!  We have had some real winter here in Northwestern Wisconsin.   We got some cold weather in November and early December, then snow.  we were happy to see the snow before more cold arrived.  

Snow acts as a protective blanket covering soil, cover crops, perennials, and all the microbial life in the soil.  Down below frost the soil temperature can be constant around 50 degrees.  a few years back with an early deep snow cover the frost came out of the soil and the snow gradually melted down at soil level.  Moisture was high and with no frost we could get into the field early that spring. 

This year in December we kept getting snow.  At one point we got snow, ice pellets, freezing rain and more snow.  Although it was inconvenient for driving a vehicle, farmers were pretty happy to see moisture after a very dry fall.  And the snow came ahead of a long spell of mostly cold weather.  

This year may not have the record cold temperatures or record snow fall, but our usual weather pattern of Alberta clippers that move rapidly from Canada through our area with a small amount of snow and cold have been replaced with temperatures about twenty degrees colder than usual and stalled systems.  

We have had many nights well below zero Fahrenheit, and the lack of sunshine has meant less solar gain inside our home and work space.  We have burned almost as much wood by the end of December as we do all season some years.

We put up our wood from our own land and like to put up more than we think we will need.  Most years I go through about six ricks of wood for the cook stove. 

 This year I have gone through three partial ricks...
and over one full rick. 

 Sean helped Ken put up some wood last fall - insurance.

It will be interesting to see what weather we get the rest of the season!