Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Winter Woolfest 2010

Mark your calendars for the second Winter Woolfest on January 9th, 9am-4pm at the Poppyfield Gallery, 514 Lincoln, downtown Wamego. The events include time to work on projects, mini-classes, demonstrations, and vendors. Learn more at http://wickedstitchyarn.com/Winterwoolfest.html or www.winterwoolfest.com

Monday, December 28, 2009

Test #1: Egg-in-the-hole

This morning marked the first test from The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Egg-in-the-hole was promoted at a very easy and slightly addictive comfort food. We had some homemade honey wheat bread and plenty of eggs, so I figured it might be an easy place to begin sampling some of the recipes. They were pretty good, but I broke two of the three yolks in the turning process. I need more practice.

Here is a picture of them in the skillet at about step number 3.












This is a picture of my sous-chef, Joey.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cool find

My previous post about Good Juju spoke of these great bookends by artist Tom Hogan. The glass blocks have decorative stained glass and I love the play of the silver, etched glass, and white. Tom's studio is called Views, 816-509-7332.

I am also in love with my Christmas present from my mom. Check out The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond and her wild ranch life in Oklahoma. http://thepioneerwoman.com/

Her recipes are simple ranch fare and admittedly high calorie. I am looking forward to giving some of her dishes a try over break and going over and over her delightful book. She does her own photography and the pictures from her working ranch are just as beautiful as the pictures of food.

My next food adventure is preparing the quail and pheasant in my freezer. Jeremy, my dad, and my father-in-law went hunting this fall and brought back several birds. I was feeling very confident and dreamy after reading Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously and accepted all of the harvest. (Note: Does anyone else have a requirement of reading the books before seeing the movies? This is a must for me.) If a non-chef can master French cooking a la Julia Childs, I can at least cook some game birds. So, here is my plea...send me your best recipes for pheasant and quail. Let me confess that I love great tasting food that is simple, takes few ingredients, and does not create a million dishes. I want it all! Post them in comments on the blog and I promise to give updates on my progress and the results.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The snow continues...

Our Christmas day included taking care of all the animals in some serious snowfall. We had some major drifts all over the yard, including a drift as tall as our large haybale behind the shed. Jeremy has shoveled and shoveled over the past few days and sadly, the wind had undone most of his work. Perhaps we will invest in that snowblower, after all.

We tried to make quick work of the outside chores, fed hay in the barn, shoveled a path to the water tub, and brought Cy inside to warm up. We also said several prayers of thanks for the water tank heaters. Breaking ice several times a day would not add to our winter weather fun.

We are also pleased that our chickens are still producing eggs, despite the cold temperatures. We are hopeful that warmer weather is coming soon. It will make things so much easier for everyone.


Even though we were freezing while we hurried through chores, this sweet birds nest in our Korean lilac bush was such a wonder. I had to snap a quick picture.

Travel safe, friends!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!


Mother nature has been dumping a generous amount of snow over northeastern Kansas. We have had record setting snowfalls and cold windchills. Our alpacas have retreated to the barn and even under cover, they managed to get a dusting of snow over their warm fiber coats.

Jeremy has been a trouper about shoveling our drive and walks. We worried that our family would not make it for Christmas, but they did arrive to enjoy lunch together and open gifts. It was a fun time. McKenzy was disappointed that she would not be able to walk the alpacas in the blizzard.

McKenzy got to meet Joey. She is a huge fan of any kind of animal and has been so excited to see the new puppy. She loved playing with him and taking pictures.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A perfect weekend

This weekend Jeremy and I were so lucky to spend time with our dear friend, Tammy Jo. I met Tammy Jo when she was a student at K-State and we have kept in touch over the years. Jeremy got to know her better when she returned to help out with Wildcat Warm-up last summer.

We share a lot of interests in eating well, gardening, organic foods, vintage finds, baking/cooking, and more! We met up on Saturday to sample a little bit of everything.

Our first stop was Good JuJu, www.goodjujukc.com. This vintage store is my find of 2010! Great variety, great prices, and good people. We found some lovely glass blocks embellished with a stained glass design and some great antique spools in a galvanized bucket. Too cute!

We went to The Planters Seed and Spice Company, http://www.plantersseed.com/. They have an amazing selection of seeds, spices, tea, garden supplies, and a bunch of other stuff we could not even get through.

Dinner was at Jerusalem Cafe a Middle Eastern restaurant in Westport. Great portions, excellent food, and a really great time. Tammy Jo picked an excellent spot. We followed the delicious baklava with take out cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory on The Plaza.

The best part of the day was talking with Tammy Jo about her future and our shared interests. What a special day.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Meet Joey


The latest addition to Prairie School Farms is a little golden retriever puppy named Joey. He was a Thanksgiving surprise from my husband. He has been a really good dog for us!
We had talked about getting a companion for Cy. Since we lost Rookie last spring, it has been an adjustment for Cy to be on his own. We found out that he is over 100 pounds!! The new puppy keeps him moving since they are in constant competition for the dog toys.
Joey is adjusting to being inside very well. We are adjusting to a new schedule of getting home to keep him on a feeding and bathroom schedule. We also have to puppy proof. One of my big shocks was seeing him with the laptop cord in his mouth pulled tight with the other end in the wall. He was pulling with all of his might and loving every second...
We enjoyed a huge snowfall, nearly 10 inches! Joey had a great time playing in the snow with Cy while Jeremy shoveled and shoveled. I told him he had to have moved a dump truck full of snow to free our vehicles from the garage, make a path out the drive way and to clear paths to all the animals. Joey fell asleep on the floor and snored all evening.
We look forward to warmer temperatures this weekend and the chance to get outside and get some more pictures of the snow.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pumpkin seed granola & inspired women

Last week I had approximately 15 hours in a car between three days of travel. Once the music got old, I turned to talk radio. Jonni McCoy, famous for her book Miserly Moms, was the subject of an interview. http://www.miserlymoms.com/

Jonni's story was one that started out of necessity - as most creative, determined womens' stories begin. She and her husband had to transition to living on one income. She was determined to find ways to save on her food budget, which included reducing or eliminating pre-packaged, pre-fab foods. She began to keep a notebook of cost savings ideas, recipes, price comparison information and more. Her friends started catching on and wanted to borrow her notebook. Fast forward a bit and she had a book deal.

Her story inspired me to think about our own food budget, including a few of our favorite (and expensive) grocery items. We love an organic pumpkin seed granola. It is pricey! A student told me last summer that her roommate made granola all the time - it was easy to make in great quantities and made their apartment smell wonderful. With those encouraging thoughts, we added a few ingredients to our grocery list and made granola last weekend.

The result: we left it in the oven a little too long, but lesson learned. It still tasted good and our house did smell wonderful.

Low Fat Granola Recipe

Makes 15 servings

3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup wheat bran
1 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup almonds (or pecans or walnuts)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup orange juice
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp cinnamon


Directions
Mix oats, wheat bran, wheat germ, nuts, and seeds in large bowl. In small bowl mix honey, brown sugar, orange juice, butter, and cinnamon. Pour honey mixture onto oats mixture and stir well. Bake in a 275ยบ oven for 1 hour, stirring every fifteen minutes.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Homemade and very simple

Part of our quest for 2009 and was live a bit simpler - spend less, recycle more, and introduce fewer chemicals into our home and yard. Looking back on the year, we have not been perfect, but have made some gains on our goals for living better.

One particular win was to use our conventional cleaning products and begin making our own. I am very much a fan of the homemade disinfectant with tea tree oil. It has a very clean scent that is not overpowering and everything I have read about tea tree oil leads me to believe it a safe alternative to disinfecting with bleach.

This website has been really helpful for inspiration: http://www.mormonchic.com/dealdiva/homemade_cleaners.asp

Enjoy!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Farm life


I am still answering the question, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" A couple of weeks ago, I might have gotten a little closer to the answer.
We hosted several families in Jeremy's track club for an end of the year picnic. After a wonderful potluck meal, the adult types held their annual meeting and the yard was swarmed with kids.
At one point, we had a group walking the paths in the garden, one group interacting with the alpacas, and another group in the chicken house collecting eggs. Stewart was pretty proud of his find.
My favorite aspect of the whole night was hearing the kids ask questions about the animals and their purpose. One young guy collected a bantam egg and after considering that it was much smaller than Stewart's version asked me in a very serious voice, "Is this going to get any bigger?" I explained that the little eggs came from the little chickens and they would not get any bigger. It was also funny to think about putting the egg in water to see if it would grow like the spongy animals my nieces get from time to time. There is not way of knowing if that was my egg collector's idea, but it might have been close.
We also had a kid pick some cherry tomatoes in the garden. He came up to me and asked, "Can I keep these? I found them." He was invited to keep them, but we found them later that night in a safe place in the barn. He set them down to feed alpacas and forgot to retrieve them before heading home.
So, when I grow up, I want to help people, especially young people, learn about farm life. Some of my best and most natural lessons about the world - my future and my past - have been with my family weeding a garden, gathering eggs, doctoring an animal, canning garden bounty, checking cows in the pasture, moving farm equipment from field to field, having a farmhand lunch at my grandma's table, and sitting outside with ice tea after a long day's work listening to crickets. Surely, there is a need to understand our connection to the earth.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New alpaca yarn is here!


We were really excited to get our lastest batch of yarn back from the mill in Phillipsburg. The Shepherd's Mill again provided expert processing for our alpaca fiber. We sent the blankets to Sally and her staff soon after the shearing in April. We got the call just before July 4 that the yarn and roving was finished. The mill does a lot of business and the spring has the highest volume of all types of fiber being sent from all over the country to little Phillipsburg, Kansas. The mill is a great tour - interesting and educational. Plus, you will not meet nicer people than Sally and her husband.
The yarn is really beautiful. Manny, Rugar, Scout, and Wes all contributed blankets. The disappointing return (though expected) was Wes. We only ended up with one skein! He had an interesting coat since he had been sheared in the "llama style" with extremely long fiber on the front and hindquarters with a shorter blanket in the middle. We hope that both he and Magellan will produce well for next year. Wes and Magellan are the two black alpacas that were gifts from a couple in the area.
Carl's blanket was processed into roving and half of Manny's blanket was also processed into roving. Carl's roving is a beautiful puffy white cloud in my living room. Manny is a light brown/dark fawn color. We will need to weigh and package the roving in the coming weekend. My favorite roving is the "ends" that includes all the colors of our alpacas in strands of roving that were the "ends" in the yarn processing.
Scout, our best seller, was processed into yarn. He has sold well at the farm and in the yarn shop in Wamego.
We look forward to having an open house in the fall to show off the yarn, roving, and blankets. We also may have socks from the fiber cooperative by the fall. The fiber cooperative took all of our second (neck and leg fiber, mostly). In return for a contribution, you earn credits that can be used to purchase finished products like socks, blankets, shawls, hats, gloves, etc.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Great Sunflower Project


A few months ago, I blogged about The Great Sunflower Project. A San Francisco State University professor is sponsoring the project and provides Lemon Queen sunflower seeds to participants around the country. Study participants agree to plant the seeds, collect data on bee activity twice a month, and report the data by mail or website.
This weekend was my first observation. We had five bees in less than 10 minutes! The Lemon Queen sunflowers have been an excellent variety for our garden. We had four plants take off and support several buds and blooms at once. I love how the bright yellow plays off our barn wood red garden fence and the weathered white siding of the chicken house.
Looking forward to the next bee observation!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Another finished project


I am 100% sold on taking classes to learn new hobbies. It was so great to have an expert at the ready to offer instruction, encouragement, and motivation to complete two - count them - two projects in four weeks. Behold the hat.
While I am far from an expert knitter (more like novice-beginner-prone-to-mistakes knitter, surely there is a class for that group?), I am developing confidence. My new resource to help me navigate my inevitable errors is Debbie Stoller's Stitch 'n Bitch. The title was good for a laugh from my husband, and I have found the book to be most helpful in fixing my mistakes and offering inspiration for future projects.
We are also really happy to have our newest batch of yarn and roving back from the mill. Sally at The Shepherd's Mill did such a great job in cleaning and processing our alpaca fiber into beautiful skeins and yards and yards of roving. I am so excited to share our new arrivals with my knitting friends.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A finished project

My first knitted project is complete - behold the headband. It has a few holes and some lovely imperfections. It was a good first attempt at knitting.

I am most proud of starting a project and finishing it! I have a quilt that has slowly been inching towards finished - just a few hours of binding left. There is the scrapbook that needs some journaling, page protectors, and bound. Let's see...the pile of stuff that needs to be sold or donated. And, boxes and piles of supplies for aspirational projects, like the zipper flowers I saw on an episode of Martha Stewart. But, one project is finished!

I am on my second week of making a hat. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I am learning to knit - finally!


My first knitting class was on Tuesday night at Wildflower Yarns and Knitwear in Manhattan. Kennita was a very patient teacher, as promised!
Our first project was a garter stitch head band (10.5 needles and a bulky weight yarn). I love the yarn - a pistachio 85% wool, 15%mohair.
I began as all thumbs and revealed myself as the class perfectionist - surprised, right? I started over a couple of times in class and pulled out several rows at home. Last night, I got on a roll and now I am stiching a row in the morning and a row at night for practice. I may have the longest headband in history!
Our next project will be a hat (8 needles and worsted weight yarn). I am so excited to have a finished project! We will finish our headband at the next class and start on the hat. Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Spring flowers


Spring is winding down and I am just now getting my spring pictures organized.

We had beautiful spring flowers - irises, peonies, and a beautiful clementis!

We were so pleased that our peonies finally bloomed. We planted them years ago and was just about to give up on them. Finally, we had two bushes loaded with blooms! I thought they looked spectacular under great-great grandpa Heinrich's (Henry) and grandma Katarina's portraits. The black and white picture on the left is of my dad's family when he was around five. The cake plate on the right is great-great grandma Katarina by way of Cousin Betty.

These irises knocked my socks off! One day we went out into the yard to find this beautiful blossom with the purple edge. I couldn't help but bring the flowers inside to enjoy for a few days.
I am looking forward to my sunflowers shooting up some more and the black-eyed susans taking off. The summer flowers are always so much fun.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

The hunt for bees


Several weeks ago the packet from the Great Sunflower Project arrived. The packet had the Lemon Queen Sunflower seeds, instructions for planting, and the data collection sheet.

My sunflowers are starting to have a good stand in the garden. The recent rains and some help from my husband with a watering in between, have given them a nice start.

I am looking forward to seeing the first blooms and starting my observation of bees.

















Thursday, May 21, 2009

Spring at Prairie School Farms

We are so blessed to have had exceptional weather this spring. The rain has been in the right amount and we have had plenty of sunshine as of late.

Our clementis is loaded with blooms. The side that faces east was especially full where blooms were on top of blooms! I originally planted the clementis with the hopes that it would grow to cover the post holding up our cast iron bell that Jer's parents gave us several years ago. Finally, it looks just like I imagined.



Wes was enjoying a hay snack on a sunny afternoon. It was so funny to watch him eat with such gusto! I really enjoy just being around the alpacas this time of year. The weather is so beautiful and the animals are always up to something.







Manny was lounging one Sunday afternoon and using a pile of hay as a pillow! He looked so comfortable that I couldn't help but take a picture.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Too cute!



B on Main in Ventura, California was the cutest shop! We made a small purchase and it was packaged in a cute brown lunch bag stamped with their name and a bee on the back with light brown and light blue tulle to close it! What a great idea for simply wrapping a gift.

I loved their merchandise, though I had to resist my compulsion to organize and straighten. It was a tad shuffled - put like things together, people!

A must-see in the cute, historic downtown in Ventura.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Why I love living in the country

Our house is at the edge of a field that is at the base of a beautiful hill. We are really fortunate to witness some amazing sunrises. This photo was from Friday morning. Jeremy was out doing chores and yelled in to take a look at the sunrise.

Sunrises are really important to me. I call my Dad on the drive to work to comment on the really pretty ones. Dad is a notoriously early riser. He gets up early as a regular practice and also lives his life in a way that puts an emphasis on the little things - like a beautiful sunrise.

Shearing time



Ok, so everyone was curious about how the two new boys would look without all that fiber. Well, here they are!

All of our alpacas look skinny and gangly after shearning, but Wes and Magellan really look small. They came to us with several years' growth on their front and hindquarters. The fiber from both of these ends is not usable because of the hay and brambles. A farm visitor who grades fiber told us that if it is "crunchy" when you touch it, the cost of cleaning the fiber for processing would be too much. Next year, we will have lots of usable fiber from both of these boys. This year, just the blankets will be used.

We are really anxious to send all of the blankets to Phillipsburg for yarn and roving. New fiber fresh from the mill should be here in about 6-8 weeks.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Good neighbors


Jeremy and I are blessed to have the best neighbors! Today, they played Easter bunny and brought us the sweetest gift that was waiting in the garage after work.
A couple of weeks ago, we shared 18 eggs in an oversized carton. Today, our neighbors returned the carton with our bantam egg shells filled with pansies. Each egg cup had Easter grass and if the cup did not have an egg shell with a flower, it had a chocolate egg! What a sweet (and absolutely perfect) thing for them to do!
It reminds me of a story from several years back that my Grandpa Harsch told me. A young farmer and his wife moved down the road from his farm. (Grandpa lived in town, but still farmed and had his old farm house, equipment shed, a garden, and all the makings for a full-scale operation just outside of town.) The young farmer needed to borrow some equipment and my Grandpa gave the go ahead. When he returned the implement, the young farmer took out his checkbook and prepared to pay my Grandpa. My Grandpa refused and said, "Let's just be good neighbors."
I have carried that sentiment with me. It's simplicy speaks to the best of rural life. I love having that story as part of my legacy and we are so blessed to have neighbors share the same value.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

First annual spring alpaca day at Prairie School Farms

Don't miss the first spring alpaca day at Prairie School Farms!

Sunday, April 5
2-5 p.m.
The Lehning's, 12015 Flush Road

To RSVP on the evite, go to:
http://www.evite.com/app/publicUrl/YDSYBVCXIDUWINJPAGBN/alpaca

We look forward to having our friends join us for an afternoon of just spending time with the animals. We will have yarn and rugs on hand for you to see the finished product. The alpacas will have their shearing on April 14, so this is the best time to see them in full-fiber mode.

Hobby Farm Home - my new favorite magazine

This Hobby Farm Home magazine is amazing! Not only does the current issue have a feature on honey and bees, but it also profiles Susan Gibbs and her fiber cooperative - Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm.

Susan left the media industry (producer for CBS) and Angora goats and Cormo sheep. The article tells her story and highlights her beautiful yarns.

There are also six fiction books on knitting that are listed with the article. I have one of the six checked off. For my knitting friends...

  • The Friday Night Knitting Club (Berkley, 2008), by Kate Jacobs
  • Knit Two (Putnam, 2008), by Kate Jacobs
  • The Shop on Blossom Street (Mira, 2005), by Debbie Macomber
  • A Good Yarn (Mira, 2006), by Debbie Macomber
  • Cast On, Bet's Off (24/7 Publishing Group, 2007), by Jack Olesker
  • Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2005), by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Happy reading and happy knitting!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Great Sunflower Project

Hobby Farm Home magazine, www.hobbyfarmhome.com, has an article in the May/June 2009 issue about the Great Sunflower Project. Gardners can sign up to plant a sunflower and survey the number of bees it attracts twice a month. The goal is to spend 30 minutes or less and to spot five bees.

The star variety for this year's effort is Lemon Queen. The Project will send you a packet of seeds to plant and provide growing tips. Go to www.greatsunflower.org to sign up and to learn more.

With the decline in bees, this is a great cause and assistance in the research of natural pollinators.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Farm visitors

We were so pleased to have some farm visitors this Sunday. Danny and Glenna Titus from Wadena, MN came by the house. They have an alpaca farm, Tis The Season Alpacas, http://www.tistheseasonalpacas.com/. Their daughter is a student at K-State and would drive by our house for work deliveries. She called home to say that she had an alpaca farm on her route.

Danny and Glenna were down to visit and they took a drive out to our house to meet the boys. What a great family! We continue to be impressed by the alpaca community and their kindness.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Scout is home.


Scout was able to come back to the farm last week. We are so thankful for the great care at the Vet Med hospital and for all of the well wishes from our family and friends.
Scout is handling his daily medicine as best as can be expected. It is a two person job with one to hold and one to adminster. He is sporting a very interesting patchwork coat. He has the area on his side bare from the surgery and spots on his neck, leg and ear that were also sheared. He is behaving like his spirited self, so we are feeling better about things.
Shearing is tentatively April 14. We will have a motley crew with Wes and Magellan and Scout all looking non-traditional with crazy fiber. Magellan and Wes have been sheared like llamas; Scout has his recent health related issue...I guess we will just be good for a laugh.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The stress!

We have had a very busy weekend with a lot of stress. On Friday night, Scout was not his usual self. Jeremy and I put all the animals in the barn and monitored him every 30 minutes until we went to bed. He seemed to be ok.

The following morning, he was laying down, but flat on his side. He did not take food. After calling some alpaca friends, we decided to call K-State. The vet on-call recommended we bring him in to be evaluated.

After some chaos in finding a trailer to borrow and driving half-way to pick up the trailer to remember that we had taken off the ball hitch from the back of the truck, we got on our way to K-State.

The Vet Med Teaching Hospital did an evaluation and thought it might be a hair ball or a mass in his digestive tract. The ultrasound did not show anything conclusive, so we agreed to an exploratory surgery. We had to put a down payment of $1,500 for them to begin the procedure. And, we were told to expect a call in about two hours.

Four and a half hours later, we called them. Scout made it through surgery, but what they found was not operable. He had an impacted colon - gross, I know. They thought the best way to proceed was to treat it medically through IV fluids and exercise.

We got to see him today. He looks ok, but we are still waiting anxiously to see if he'll make it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Inspiration


My friend Susan found out that we had alpacas and was interested in taking a look at our yarn. She bought some of the most beautiful colors that we have and just sent this picture as an idea for a project.
I am first in awe of anyone who can knit mittens! Second, I love the pattern name - Deep in the Forrest. These should be really beautiful with alpaca fiber and Susan is so talented.
Susan introduced us to ravelry.com. It is a networking site for fiber artists and it will be a great source of pattern ideas (ok, that is an aspirational goal) and a way to store information about fiber, project details, and future project ideas. A very cool resource. Still looking forward to learning spinning and knitting...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Thankful for warmer weather!

With Jeremy's surgery, chore duty is squarely on my shoulders for the next few weeks. This morning was surprisingly warm...I even peeled layers while moving hay and executing our waste management plan.

We had a farm visit from a very talented knitter from Riley, Kansas. She had purchased some of our first yarn and needed more of Scout's fiber to finish her project. The scarf is a beautiful work in progress! It was fun to show off our newly updated farm scrapbook and to have her shop our yarn. We also spent some time with the animals.