Monday, December 19, 2011

Fiber Giveaway Winner!

Update: We have a winner! Our winner is #6 - Kelly H, who said "I'm a knitter, and wannabe spinner, so I'd be using your lovely wool to learn how. I'd also use some to needle-felt fix a small hole in my favouritest sweater that a moth found last year. We're going to be educating ourselves on sheep farming this winter, with big dreams in mind. What made you decide on Icelandics?"
Congratulations! Be sure to check back for additional giveaways this winter. I've got at least three, maybe four lined up and they're all going to be awesome! (I may do a few more fiber giveaways as I destash some of the bags of fuzz I have amassing in my house!)

In the meantime, here's a photo of our latest visitor here at Tanglewood. His name is Ollie and he is a pure bred grey moorit Icelandic from Queso Cabeza in Olivet. He is a lamb ram who gets to make his breeding debut here with our three lovely ladies... 

that is if he can ever catch them!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Wooly Anniversary and A Holiday Giveaway!

While tossing the last of the windfall apples into the sheep field on Thursday, I had to smile. My ewes now know to line up when I start scouring the ground under the apple trees that are outside their field. They shuffle each other out of the way, grunting and throwing mini sheep-tantrums (they literally jump right up into the air and then STOMP as hard as they can on the ground - all four feet - it's omgSOcute). I can run my eyes across them and gauge their condition (OH they are fat). I can watch the way they interact to know who is the boss today (it changes daily!) and I can spot a runny nose from across the yard.

I have spent the last year learning many things about Icelandic sheep. A lot of these lessons have been hard. I lost poor Ingrid to "grass tetany" or magnesium deficiency in spring. Her darling little lamb, Brighid, bounced back quickly and after a few bottles of warm local goat milk she had decided to wean herself. Brighid grew very close to my other ewe, Gertrude, after her mother's death. 

Unfortunately this fall, after a very long, hot summer, Gertrude succumbed to all sorts of complications of white muscle disease (WMD). She hung on for so long and tried so long and taught me so much in the time that she was ill. I have never had to learn so quickly about animal supplements, shots, treatments... and I've never seen an animal fight so hard to live. She was incredibly inspiring. 

After that, Brighid was introduced to her two new sisters, Blaire and Nance, who were a little rough with her at first but these days Brighid and Blaire are totally inseparable.

Of course, there have been fantastic moments as well. When Gertrude was around, my heart would leap every time she ran up to me for treats. She was a special sheep with a great personality. There was also Brighid's birth, which I actually got to see! Little itty bitty Brighid nose, poking out... aww... I remember running to the house to get Jeremy and by the time I got back to the barn, Brighy was standing and bleating her first little bleats... Of course, I cried a little from relief. :)

So here I am, a year later, with entirely different ewes and all the mileage and lessons of a year tucked neatly, albeit slightly emotionally, behind me. What better way to celebrate? Playing with fiber!

You can find my wet felting tutorial over at Not Dabbling in Normal!

Do you have any awesome fibery ideas? To celebrate, I have 4 ounces of fuzzy warm Icelandic fleece looking for a new home! (Forgive me, this is my first giveaway!) 

One winner will be chosen via random-number-generator on Sunday, December 18th at Midnight and will be posted here the following day. Please make sure you include some method of contact information so I can find you after the drawing!

Entries are open through the weekend. If I get more than 50 entries, I'll add a second winner!

I'll contact the winner(s) after the drawing and you can let me know what color you prefer your fiber to be. This is RAW fleece, which means it's unwashed, but it'll be prime fleece. It'll be individual locks of Icelandic fiber (tog and thel - it's a double layered fleece) that you can spin, felt or you can use the curly locks for dolls!

To Enter:
Simply comment below, before the cut-off on December 18th, with your favorite fibery project!

Want a second chance to enter? Post this blog entry to your twitter OR your facebook, and then come back here and comment AGAIN letting me know you did so! 

Only two entries per person, sorry!


Update: We have a winner! Our winner is #6 - Kelly H, who said "I'm a knitter, and wannabe spinner, so I'd be using your lovely wool to learn how. I'd also use some to needle-felt fix a small hole in my favouritest sweater that a moth found last year. We're going to be educating ourselves on sheep farming this winter, with big dreams in mind. What made you decide on Icelandics?"

Congratulations! Be sure to check back for additional giveaways this winter. I've got at least three, maybe four lined up and they're all going to be awesome! (I may do a few more fiber giveaways as I destash some of the bags of fuzz I have amassing in my house!)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Another Dark Days Post, or Why I shouldn't be allowed to take on challenges right before the holidays

My GOODNESS I'm difficult to keep on track.

I have like 8 projects simultaneously started right now, none of which were a blog post to cover the local meal we had for the Dark Days Challenge this week. I cannot believe how immensely BUSY I've been this past week! This whole handmade Christmas thing might be getting ridiculous. Yeesh. I think I've taken it too far... again.

Of course, I didn't manage to get photos of it, but it was delicious all the same! Wednesday of this week we made some of the best nachos I've ever eaten and they were almost exclusively local!

We are lucky to be able to buy our tortilla chips from the Ann Arbor Tortilla company. They come flavored with natural lime and salt, and their corn masa is never from genetically modified corn. They're the best. Ever. Seriously. If you find them in a store near you, give them a shot!

Atop our wonderful local chips we had chorizo from the farmer's market, corn that I had frozen from the farm stand earlier this year, shredded cheese from Traffic Jam's fantastic dairy in Detroit, sour cream from Calder's dairy which we have delivered weekly, pickled jalepeno and carrot relish (naturally fermented) from the Brinery in Ann Arbor (best pickles ever) and topped off with ... organic canned black beans.

I can't do nachos without black beans and I haven't yet mustered the enthusiasm to cook beans fresh for my mexican food. Ahhhh well...

So I'm feeling like this is kind of a boring post without photos of our nachos. What I CAN share is photos from our recent outing to Frita Batidos in Ann Arbor. Frita is a cuban and honduran inspired sandwich shop known for it's support of local agriculture and small farms. It's owner, Eve, is a big name in Ann Arbor locavore culture, and I cannot stress enough how fantastic the food at this restaurant is.

First of all, they serve their freshly made ginger lime juice in a twisted sandwich bag the same way juices are served on the streets of Honduras, where Eve took her Frita staff to research the cuisine and culture.
Second of all, they offer a chorizo sandwich topped with fresh cilantro lime salsa, sweet chili mayo AND fritas - French Fries! Oh my gosh. So delicious.

The interesting thing is that the chorizo they serve there is actually the same chorizo we had on our nachos at home. How do I know? Well, while we were sitting there eating lunch, the farmer we buy our chorizo from came into the restaurant hauling a HUGE wheeled cooler brimming with pork and wearing his farm boots, woolen hat and insulated carhart coveralls. The cooler had to contain at least an entire pig. Most of the customers stared on in bewildered horror... Jeremy and I just smiled.

Ah, the farmer. Ah, local food.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Couch-Sleeping

The Husband and I have been sleeping on our couch. No, we're not simultaneously "in the doghouse" and No, we're not avoiding our bedroom because of ghosts...

We've been sleeping on the couch because in this house, until you get every single window triple sealed with storm window, weatherproofing putty and shrinky plastic, the warmest room in the house is our living room.

The thing that helps is that our couch is an early Victorian sofa with a very unique modern cut, so it's very deep and very long. It's actually more than half the width of our bed anyway, and it's at least 6" longer (we sleep on an antique bed and mattresses - have I mentioned how conventional we aren't?) so the couch works pretty well as a warm-snuggley substitute.

I could see how the necessity of this inconvenience would drive some people totally bonkers. They'd say things like "Why not just get a heated blanket?" "Why not finish sealing all of your windows (thus making the atmosphere of the house something akin to living in a goldfish bowl...)?" "Doesn't it make you squirrely to have to sleep on your couch omg omg?"  "What is wrong with you?!"

The truth is, we don't mind. Last night we put up our itty bitty potted Christmas tree in our living room, with the LOTR movies playing in the background and (real) hot chocolate with fresh vanilla whipped cream. Honestly, guys, getting in the Christmas spirit just doesn't get any better than a good snuggle. It's not about the presents or even the mad-dash traveling to see family and friends. It's about finding the inner warm and fuzzy place and holding on to it through the cold weather. We fell asleep with the fire roaring and the Christmas tree lights twinkling, and I didn't even mind when the husband elbowed me in the face when he rolled over.

Now that is Christmas.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Forging through the Dark Days

In Michigan these days really are dark. At seven this morning it was literally black as pitch out and I managed to stay huddled in bed until at least eight thirty before the dirty, dusky light crawling in through my un-curtained my window. If only we had a layer of snow to reflect the teeeeeensy bit of light we get before eight.

My Dark Days post this week is about preparing for a fantastic Dark Days Dessert tonight, rather than actually executing it. I know, lame, right?

I do (in honesty) have a great excuse though... I had planned my fantastic Dark Days execution for last night, so I could get it just under the wire with my recapper over at Not Dabbling in Normal. Then, in a fit of madness while at work, I helped my barn manager catch a very stray kitten and managed to get a really nasty bite. My evening dissolved into a whirlwind of phonecalls to the health department; a long drive to the humane society; scrubbing, soaking and rescrubbing the bite wound; trying not to think about rabies (which is unfortunately something we have to worry about in Michigan); and finally a small inner war at the end of the night when husband suggested rather than cooking we go to the local health food store for pizza. When he mentioned he would personally go pick it up and I wouldn't have to do anything, I admit, my resolve dissolved... heh. At least the pizza was made using whole grains and rBST free ingredients. *fail*

Anyway, this is my plan for today....

I battled with motivation all morning (literally from the moment I opened my eyes), thinking about dropping out of the DD even before it started. I realized that's seriously silly though. We eat SOLE foods regularly, and just because I hadn't managed to do a write up on any of the meals we've had so far doesn't mean I should give up. Right?


So I walked into the kitchen and suddenly remembered the adorable Bosc pears that I purchased at our local Ann Arbor farmers' market two days ago. Mmm. Pears. The most readily available local ingredients that we have around our house are definitely baking ingredients, so I figured Hey! Spiced Pear Pies.

Well, unfortunately in the dark days challenge I am trying to stay as local as I can, and spices really aren't all that local to Michigan, so I was left trying to come up with a recipe that would add a zing to the soft mute flavor that is pear.

What do we grow in Michigan that is zingy? Well, not much. We don't grow citrus, that's for sure, and spice beyond the brazen capsaicin of simple dried chili peppers is pretty hard to come by. We have native sumac, which can be used as a lemon substitute, but I'm not quite sure how to process sumac into a usable substance yet. I'll get there, I'm just a little intimidated by the large fuzzy spires on the staghorn bushes in the woods.
Then it struck me - another zingy thing that most people overlook - rose hips! They're totally in season now too, having mellowed just a tad from the recent freezes we've had. I googled a bit and found a spectacular looking recipe for rose hip and pear pie (so it's really "a thing"!) so as soon as I finish here and hit "publish" (and I suppose I should try to forward this on to Jen at Not Dabbling so she gets my lame-o cop-out update for this week) I will pull on my wellies and a couple wool fisherman's sweaters, top myself off with a stocking cap and trudge out into the orchard where the wild rose bushes grow.

I don't want to take too many rose hips from the birds, but I figure I can glean a few pounds without affecting them too drastically. Our orchard is literally brimming with rose bushes... hundreds of them. I'm pretty sure they're all multiflora rosa, so they're the nasty invasive type. I'll try to see this as I'm preventing a small percentage of additional seed-fall, to keep the invasive species at bay. Hah.