Monday, July 8, 2013

Honey Strawberry Jam

We did a little strawberry picking in June and I made a batch of honey-sweetened strawberry jam.
The key to the best low/no-sugar jams and jellies.
My wonderful sister gave me Pomona's Universal Pectin last summer. It is one of the coolest products I use when canning. It allows you to make use of any sweetener you'd like or none at all. It's much better than the typical low-sugar pectin because it doesn't have any sweetener in it. Most low-sugar pectin contains dextrose (sugar).

Onion Rye Bread

Well it's officially summer and it definitely feels that way. I've been super busy but managed to take pictures of a couple recent projects.

I think I mentioned I read Wild Fermentation. Anyway, this recipe is from that book. I didn't post the actual recipe since I didn't have my Kindle at hand, but it's just $9 if you have a kindle and $20ish if you want a paperback.
Ground rye and wheat mixture.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ah, Spring!

It's almost hard to talk about spring today since it's "feels like" 76 out right now with a projected high of 84! Feels a bit more like summer. I've been very busy as there is so much to do on a farm in spring! 

First a little farm update. I think we might have beavers...

Monday, May 13, 2013


So, being the crazy person that I am (and being absolutely obsessed with learning) I've decided to embark on another learning adventure. Thankfully this will be nowhere near as expensive as my MBA was.

I am going to start Sage Mountain's home study course (found here). It was designed by Rosemary Gladstar who is one of the co-founders of Traditional Medicinals. I did a bit of research on the different home study/correspondence courses and I liked both Rosemary's personality and way of approaching herbalism and the price of her course. I realize that she is mostly retired at this point, but knowing that she designed the course and it's being run by those she has taught is good enough for me.

I started by buying the first lesson to see how I liked it. I have to say, I am very very impressed by the course. I think I may end up putting more effort into this than I did any of my MBA courses. There is graded homework at the end of every lesson and it actually take some thinking and requires going out and working with the plants. She has you put together a book (or binder) of herbs you research and you are required to try every one. I love this as I agree with her that you can only really get to know the personality of a herb by trying it yourself. Too bad drugs are too dangerous for doctors to be required to do the same!

I ordered my resource books and they are really great. My favorite hands down is the two volume A Modern Herbal. Back to Eden is pretty out there and the herb section is a little small, but still informative. I asked my darling husband for Weeds of the Northeast for mother's day because I'm a huge dork, and because it's the best book for vegetative ID of a wide variety of "commercially significant weeds" (read: agricultural pests).

I have not had practically any time to work on my homework for the course so far. I have started a first draft of my introductory letter but can't decide what part of my life to focus on. I have written up the first two herbs for my notebook, but haven't finished either because I need to ask what I herbs I can try while nursing and which I should avoid.  I did, however, purchase the herbs I need to try; so, I guess that's something.

I've also recently started drinking nourishing herbal infusions every day. I decided to start with Nettle since it's supposed to help increase your daily stamina and that's something no mother of two young children can ever have enough of. Today was my third day drinking nettle which I have decided tastes a bit like what I imagine gym socks worn by fish might taste like. I absolutely love nettle soup, so I'm pretty sure it's just the strength of the infusion that's putting me off. It's also much better iced but I don't think honey helps at all.

Once I've done six days of nettle I'll do one of Linden (as a treat) and then six days of oatstraw. I'm hoping that the oatstraw with it's higher silica content will help my joints, but we'll have to wait and see. After three days I have not noticed an increase in energy from the nettle, but it really hasn't been nearly long enough to notice a change and I also have not managed to kick my coffee habit and that will make it harder to determine nettle's effect on my energy levels. On a positive note, the herbal coffee I ordered from Mountain Rose Herbs tastes like chocolate peanut butter to me. I think they were trying for a coffeeish flavor, but yay chocolate peanut butter!

Well I think that's a fairly substantial post even though I didn't manage to add any pictures. Maybe if I'm feeling up to it tomorrow I'll do a step-by-step of making an herbal infusion or something. Right now I just really need sleep.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hey, where'd I go?

So... I've been busy. Tim's been spending more time than usual out of town and I've been busy with the kids. I've actually been getting quite a bit done, just not finding time to blog about any of it. So this post will be a quick update. I'm not doing a step-by-step explanation for anything but the bath melts, so if there are any projects that you want instructions for I'll do a separate post for them.

I got a huge order for bath melts on Etsy (yay!). So Here's how they're made.

Weighing the cocoa butter.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Handmade Handkerchiefs

I went into Finn's room the other day and discovered that he had torn a huge hole in his fitted sheet! I could have patched it, thrown it out, or made something out of the fabric. Yay for handkerchiefs!
Big hole.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Fresh Ground Buckwheat Pancakes

So, I am the very proud owner of a Country Living Grain Mill. I know grinding your own flour isn't everyone's idea of fun, but for the sake of self-reliance and food quality I bought one (oh, and it's fun!).

Whole grains just hold up better than ground. A feed salesman recently told us that chicken feed isn't worth keeping more than one month because the cracked grain loses most of its vitamin content during that time. Think about it, how long has that bag of flour been sitting in the grocery store? If he wouldn't feed two month old (since milling) grain to chickens why would I feed flour that's God knows how old to my family?

Pancake time! The recipe I use for buckwheat pancakes is a lightly modified version of Best Buckwheat Pancakes from To decide how much to mill I assumed (based on measurements from The Bread Baker's Apprentice) that the 2-1/4 c of each flour called for in the recipe would be about 5 oz of whole grain. So I loaded up my mill's hopped with 5 oz of red winter wheat and 5 oz of buckwheat.

Grains in the hopper.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Painting a Bookshelf and Making Some Sausage

I have been doing things, just not writing about them. So we'll start with painting the bookshelf. My husband make me a lovely bookshelf for Finn's room. I started off by painting it the same blue as almost everything in our kitchen because it was what I had around and I like it.

Next I found a couple Winnie the Pooh pictures that I liked. I decided to do a Winnie the Pooh theme for his room since it's something he can enjoy into his elementary years and it doesn't annoy me as much as the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse art.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bobbin Roll

Finished my bookmark! The best was when my 2-year-old son picked it up and stared at it and then announced, "Pretty!" 

So, last night I was winding up some bobbins for my next project (boy do I need a bobbin winder!) and I decided that I was sick of storing my bobbins in the plastic zip top bags they came in. So, I jotted down some measurements and came up with a plan for a bobbin roll which I made this morning.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Goat Babies and Lace

I think everyone who knows me knows what's been keeping me so busy and not updating my blog for the past few days, goat babies! Saturday morning I went down to the barn and found not one, not two, but three brand new (still slimy) kids in the pen with Marty. I let Clover out and toweled off the two goats she hadn't gotten to and all looked well. She let all three of them nurse that first day.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Making Liquid Laundry Soap (Day 2)

 Your soap is still settling, but you want to get something done. Time to make your label!

Morning of day 2, very cloudy.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Making Liquid Laundry Soap (Day 1)

This was one of the two projects I tackled yesterday. I made laundry soap for my own family the year before last, but after I ran out of potassium hydroxide I switched back to store-bought. I decided this summer to get back into making liquid soaps and even sell a few. The first of these is my liquid laundry soap.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Watch This Space

I still don't have anything crafty to post yet, but this will be changing soon. I got my order of soap supplies yesterday and now I can make this year's soap batches. Yay! I have three new kinds of lip balm to make plus a lot of different kinds of soap. I'm going to make more lotion too, including more 1 oz jars and then I'll put together some little skin care kits (1 oz lotion, guest sized bar of soap, and maybe bath melts or some other bath thing). I also want to make a batch of bubble bars. I have all the ingredients I need to make solid bubble bath. I just need to whip some up.

I'm still waiting for my goat Marty to kid. They say 145-155 days from sexytime, which for her is Feb 24th - March 6th... Whenever you're ready girl! Of course there will be pictures, assuming all goes well.

I will be able to  start adding gardening stuff to this blog soon too. I can't wait to get out there and start playing in the dirt. Step one, spread manure!

As far as lace making and such, I haven't been able to get anything done the past few days. Alice wasn't cooperating on the days that I had off from work and yesterday I was too tired after my shift to do anything. I'm still not 100% after being sick. I'm not used to having to take it easy for so long after something simple like a 24 hour bug. Part of me thinks it's because I'm spending so much of my energy making milk for little miss. Part of me thinks I'm getting seeing the first effects of getting older. I refuse to give in to this getting older nonsense.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Goal Setting

I've been sick/super busy lately. I know, it's not a great excuse, but in lieu of an actual post, here's a video on goal setting:


Makes you wonder about how social media is affecting people's ability to reach their goals. If everyone tells all their friends and family everything all the time (including what they had for breakfast each day) is announcing their goals in the same way reducing the probability of those goals being achieved?

Also, in case you were wondering how I got thinking about goal setting, here's a video on psychology and weight loss.

Weight Loss

I hope these videos are interesting enough to justify me not posting anything craft related.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lace and Number Rods

I haven't done a whole lot of crafty stuff since my last post. I've worked some on Finn's Montessori materials. With the help of my wonderful husband, he's now the proud owner of a set of number rods. I worked some on the bead materials too, but I made a mistake starting the 1000 cube (of course I would mess up the largest one) and now I have to start over. It was a silly mistake. I started in the exact center of the plastic canvas squares I'm using as support when I should have started one square off from dead center. Lesson learned.

Awesome number rods.

I finished the bit of fan edging I was working on. I screwed up one fan pretty badly and on another one the tension is a bit off, but overall I don't think I did too badly considering I'm in the very beginning learning stages.
Little bit of edging practice.

Not perfect, but getting better.

Last night I pinned up and started working on a bookmark. I wanted to work on it more during the day today, but I got distracted. I suppose I can try to find a little time after my shift tonight.
Set up for my bookmark.

Today I'm making 3 loaves of bread (cinnamon raisin, white, and rye) and a half dozen hamburger buns for dinner.

I also did all of my ordering for Back Road Soap Company today. The money going out kinda stung, but I'm really excited about getting back into things. I'm going to be making more liquid soap this year. I did it my first year, really just for my family. I mostly made laundry soap, and this year I'll be making it available in half gallons for my customers first at the consignment shop and, if it does well there, on Etsy as well.

I also picked up more cocoa butter for my bath melts that have been my best seller on Etsy, lip balm tubes, two new lip balm flavors (coffee and banana coconut), and palm oil for this spring's soap making.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Blanket and Pudding

My blanket is done! I just finished the trim around midnight tonight. I know, I should be sleeping but it's just so satisfying to finish something. I have enough yarn left over to make a couple throw pillows in the same pattern, but I haven't decided whether I really want to do that yet. I'm really looking forward to giving the blanket to Finn to test out tomorrow. While I was trying to finish the trim he kept shouting "blanket!" excitedly.

The other awesome thing I did today was make one of my favorite dinners. I did say I was going to include some of my cooking here. The recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks Down Home Cooking: The New Healthier Way. I borrowed it from the Ithaca library back in the day and liked it so much I got myself a copy. Obviously I can't post the recipe here since I'm sure that's copyright infringement, but I can tease you with pictures.
Chicken Pudding!

Finn's plate.
I know, I know, chicken pudding sounds scary, but it's really quite good. The 'pudding' is a batter-ish mixture that you pour over the fried and boiled chicken before baking. It's just this nice bready stuff with crunchy bits. Yum! It took some convincing to get Tim to try it the first time I made it, but even he came around.

The only criticism I have of the recipe is it calls for you to make a silly amount of gravy. This meal can obviously feed at least four people, but four people don't need a cup of gravy each. That's right, it makes a quart of gravy. Good thing I can think of all kinds of lovely things to do with the extra.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Montessori Materials

I've been working a little bit on Montessori materials lately. Finn has been really very interested in letters and so I thought one of the things I would start with is sandpaper letters. My wonderful husband cut down a sheet of luan this weekend and sanded 26, 3" x 5" rectangles for me. He actually cut enough for me to make the upper case alphabet and the numbers 0-9 but he hasn't gotten to sanding them yet, and anyway lower case letters is all I need for now.

Ready to make some sandpaper letters.

The luan looks really nice.

Glue is drying.

Dollar Tree baskets are the best.

I'm really glad I chose to use luan. The cards look nice and I don't have to worry about Finn bending or breaking them. (He immediately bent the color cards I made.) I did the vowels in blue and consonants in red. I just used regular old Elmer's, actually brand X white glue.The sand stuck very nicely and is staying on well enough. I considered coating them with Mod Podge but it didn't turn out to be necessary.

Finn and I did a little lesson with "a" and "s". I would have used "m" too but the glue wasn't quite dry yet. He had a lot of fun and was very proud of himself when he correctly named the sounds the letters make. He even took them back out later on and worked with them by himself. He was a little put out when I put all but the two we were using up on a high shelf, but (A) some of them were still a little soft and (B) I'd rather have them introduced a few at a time properly than have him play with the whole set at once not knowing what they're for.

The other thing I did a little of was beading. I have to say I really love making these. I'm sure by the time I'm done will all the golden bead materials I'll be singing a different tune, but for now I find the work oddly soothing.
Too lazy to measure? String then cut!

Yay beads!

Four down and a million more to go (seems that way).
 I bought my beads at Consumer Crafts. Their prices were really very good. I bought 18 gauge wire, which turned out to be perfect for this. Pliable enough to not be a hastle but stiff enough to hold its shape well and the 6 mm beads I bought fit on it just fine. If I remember I'll take a picture of the whole huge bag of beads I have. It's almost 12lbs of beads!

Also, in case anyone was curious, a bead with a 10 mm hole will fit very nicely on a bootlace. I bought the 25 mm maple beads with a 10 mm hole just hoping that it would work with a $1 pair of bootlaces I picked up at the Dollar Tree (did I mention I love that store?) and it did. They're a little rough on the inside, so they don't slide nicely on the bootlace, but I can always fix that easily enough with a little sandpaper.

I've been working on making a torchon fan edging as my current lace project and I'm putting the edging on that crochet blanket. So, I should have pictures and posts for those things soon.

I've been focusing more on Finn lately, which is what I should be doing anyway. With the busy spring, summer, and fall on a farm I need to give him all the time I can while I have it. I started my onion seed today along with some herbs destined for pots and Tim and I went over our first order from the hatchery. Spring is just around the corner!

I'll also be trying to work in making a batch of lotion and placing my order for more soap making supplies. Then I'll put up my soap-making adventures too!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Blanket Progress

Exciting news (well, for me anyway) about the blanket I've been working on. I finished the squares!
So many squares!

Starting to sew things together.

I've started sewing the squares together but I didn't get very far tonight. I'd rather work on lace this late at night since I can sew during the day with Finn around. I have the evening off from transcribing tomorrow and I'll be taking a nice hot bubble bath and then making lace!

Also, I got my huge order of beads and such in the mail today. I decided that I'm going to make the Montessori bead materials myself since they're soooooo expensive (as is everything Montessori). I obviously won't be needing them for another three years, but I had the money now and it will take me forever to make everything anyway. 

Along with beads, there were 2 kazoos (Finn is a kazoo master), a xylophone, a huge bag of pompoms that I plan on using for sorting exercises, and big wooden beads for stringing. I'm going to set up Finn's stringing exercise tomorrow. He and I worked on color cards today. He can just about handle 3 colors at once. 

He's also been walking around the house counting to himself. He goes up to 15. I really want to introduce some of the early math materials (pink tower, counting rods) so that he'll have a better idea what all that counting means. 

I'm excited to get started making sandpaper letters too. I decided that they would last longest if I made them on luan (a type of plywood). It's about 1/4 in thick and Tim gets it for free from work. I just need him to cut a sheet down to index card sized chunks for me. He's off Saturday and Sunday. Hopefully I can convince him to do this for me this weekend.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


I'm sure that part of why I'm so excited about lace right now is because it's new, but this is seriously one of the most fun hobbies I've picked up. It's just so pretty! The whole process is beautiful. I love working with bobbins. So, this is what I did last night/today.

Third pricking ready to go!
Starting the pattern.

This was as far as I got last night before little miss woke up again and I decided to hit the hay. There really is a lovely rhythm to lace making. 

Almost done.

It's a porcupine!
 My son actually did the last few stitches for me. I was too excited to put it away when he got up from his nap today and he really wanted to help. He very carefully picked up the bobbin I pointed to and placed it where I showed him. It was very cute. He also wanted to play with the pins, but obviously that was not going to happen!

Kind of looks like a squid.

The second spider got a little wonky.
I wish this had turned out a little better. I think I did very well with the ground, but my second spider leaves something to be desired. I guess I need to make a lot more of them. Lace making seems to be a lot of muscle memory. 

I'm going to starch this little piece with boiled cornstarch and give it to my mother as a gift. I don't think she'll care about the screwy spider.

I don't know whether I'll work more tonight. I guess it just depends on what wins out between my excitement about lace making and my utter exhaustion from staying up too late the past two nights.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Home Again and Lace

I finally made it home after a wonderful extended vacation with my parents. I have to say it is nice to be back in my own house, and I'm sure my parents collapsed from exhaustion the second we drove away. God bless them.

So, after settling back in and doing a little cleaning, I finally got to break out my bobbins! I didn't think to get my camera out yesterday when I actually started working through the "Bobbin Lace Without a Teacher" book that came with my kit, but I did think of it this afternoon when I was winding up more bobbins to start the third pricking that came with the book.

Two pairs wound, eight to go.

Winding bobbins takes forever... may have to invest in a winder.
Last night, after I finished my transcription shift, I worked my way through the first two prickings that come with the book. I photocopied the originals onto cardstock and punched/pricked them. When I finished each practice piece I taped it right to the card to keep for reference (as it suggests in the book). I don't think I did too shabby for my first attempt.

Prickings one and two.

Whole stitch and whole stitch with an extra twist of the workers.

Half stitch plait. Exciting, I know
My only regret so far is staying up until 1 am yesterday working on this. I really need to sleep more. Unfortunately I just can't pull out the bobbins and pillow during the day with my very curious 2-year-old around. He needs to touch everything with his sticky little fingers, not that I blame him. Bobbins are very pretty.

This is the book that I'm going to start working my way through once I finish with the one I'm working on now. I found it at my local library and liked it so much I bought a copy. 

Obviously I haven't started with this book yet, but it's full of great advice, illustrations, and tons of prickings. It works through Torchon, Bedfordshire, and Bucks Point laces. The part I like best just paging through it is that it explains a bit about how the laces evolved and what makes each style unique and identifiable. Then towards the end of the Bucks Point chapter it says a little about designing your own patterns, which I'm far from but very excited to try.

I found this book on ebay for a steal, but amazon has it too (The Technique of Bobbin Lace). Seriously though, if you can find it on ebay snatch it up. I got my copy for $13 plus shipping from somewhere in England. It's used, but it's a library-binding hardcover copy and in good condition. Can't really do better than that.

I was hoping to get to trying out the next pricking (Torchon ground) tonight. We'll see if my little girl likes that idea. She just fell back asleep. Now to try and move her from my lap, a dangerous proposition indeed.

Oh, and I figured out what kind of wood the bobbins are made of, birch. When I was working with them last night it felt really familiar, and I immediately remembered a set of birch double pointed knitting needles I once owned. Has a great feel to it, but definitely a super soft wood. I loved those knitting needles until the day I snapped one of them, so sad.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Forced Vacation

So, after my son's birthday party on Friday (pictures of which are on my Facebook page), which unfortunately my mother-in-law had to miss due to an illness, I took the kids and went up to my parents' to give Tim time to work on the house.

As usual I had a wonderful time visiting. We did some really productive shopping during which I picked up things for Finn's 'daycare' at home. We also got to go up to Ithaca on Monday and visit with Uncle Jon and had a lovely meal out.

Monday evening when I spoke with my husband (Tim) he told me that he had been feeling tired and achy all day (red flag!). So I insisted he check his temperature, "yes dear, right now. I'll wait." Wouldn't you know it, he had a fever. So I postponed my return. He went to the doctor and was told that he has the flu. I am so grateful that he got sick while I was out of town with the kids!

On the one hand I wish I could be there to take care of him, but on the other neither of my kids nor I have gotten the flu shot this year (due mostly to Tim's dislike of vaccinations). I can't imagine how bad it would have been if we had been home and Alice had gotten sick. A fever at her age is just downright dangerous!

Where does this leave me? I'm on a forced extended vacation at my parents'. I'm still working regular shifts in the evenings and working on a little crafting. Fortunately I brought my crochet afghan, a sweater I'm knitting, and a cross stitch kit with me. If I finish anything I'll post here, but otherwise I won't have too much worth posting.

I hope I'll be home soon, but the nurse I spoke with told me to wait until Tim was feeling completely better, and he's just not there yet, even with the Tamiflu. I can't imagine what I would have done if my parents weren't so kind as to let me stay as long an necessary. It's so great to have such a wonderful loving family.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Lace Making Kit is Here!

I got my lace making kit from Snow Goose Lace yesterday!! There were two packages at my house when I got back from running errands. Little miss needed her 2 month check-up and little mister got himself a haircut with the help from my wonderful neighbor Debbie who held the baby so Finn could sit on my lap for his haircut. 

The big one is my lace stuff. The little one turned out to be my husband's new headphones, much less exciting.

The bobbins are just beautiful. I love the spangles. The wood is a little soft. The online description didn't say what type of wood it was but I'm betting it's some kind of pine. I'll have to be very gentle with them so they don't get dented or marred, but it's not like bobbins have a rough life anyway. 

I need to sew myself a roll to keep my bobbin pairs in and make myself a little pincushion to attach to the pillow while I work. I know there was a tomato cushion in the kit, but I think a large strawberry shaped one attached to the pillow would be more helpful. I'll post the pattern I come up with for the roll once I get it finished.

The real tragedy is that I haven't been able to try out my wonderful new supplies. I was too busy with making preschool supplies for Finn, getting ready for his birthday (which was today), and I worked last night. Now I'm at my parents' place with Finn and Alice and I couldn't bring the stuff here because my parents have two very playful cats.

I guess I'll get back to my crochet squares.