DIY…Brown Sugar!

Love these fall days!  Even though they’re getting shorter and shorter, there is a bit less to do outside and coming inside gives you more time for little day to day activities…like making homemade brown sugar…but I’ll get to that later!

Today’s farm chores included monthly hoof trimming and vitamin administration as well as pasture rotation of our ewe flock.  We are so blessed to still have plenty of grass around, and hope to have it all consumed before it is destroyed by a few heavy frosts – and we’ve had a couple of light frosts already, cold enough to leave a thin sheet of ice over the water troughs in the morning!

Garden chores consisted of picking the last green tomatoes.  They’ll be used to make green tomato raspberry jam to stash in the freezer for later this winter!  Also picked a bunch of snow peas – some of the vines took a bit of a hit from the frost, and even though there are still flowers on the vines, we’re not sure if there will be many pollinators around to keep the pea population plentiful (wow — say that 3 times fast!)

The bean plants seem to be finally spent as well.

We picked a bucket of tomatillos to freeze for salsa verde pork and chicken over the winter and pulled every last pepper off of the plants to freeze.  The plants really didn’t like the frost at all and so we needed to rescue what was left of the peppers.

The carrots and parsnips are still growing and thriving in the cool weather, and we hope to be picking them later in the fall.  We still have plenty of leeks in the ground to pick as needed as well.

The sweet potatoes we picked over a month ago are still curing in our jacuzzi, but we caved in and sampled some baked last night to see how the sweetening process was going…still need another couple of weeks to reach perfection!

Unbelievably our lettuce crop looks great, despite the frost!  So nice not to have to buy lettuce!

And today was “the day” to plant our garlic!  We managed to save a few heads from our 2012/2013 crop and planted about 30 or so of the biggest cloves.  We also planted about 75 of a different variety of hardneck garlic that we purchased locally.  Those should all be starting to sprout later this fall/early winter and at that time we’ll blanket them in compost them to get them through the harshest part of the winter.

Anyway – that all brings me to my inside task this evening that I thought I’d share with you because it is such an easy thing to do and gives you a cheaper, more pure product than you can normally find in the store – homemade brown sugar!

Have you looked at the ingredients in brown sugar?  I never had until my Australian husband – from sugar cane country – mentioned it to me.  There is caramel coloring added to it!  Yep – somehow they refine the natural color of raw sugar out of the sugar and then add it back in artificially!

Yep.

So we started buying natural brown sugar on Amazon – but for a family of 10, that gets a little expensive.  I finally came across a recipe for homemade brown sugar on Pioneer Woman’s Tasty Kitchen website and was satisfied.  If they’re going to refine sugar by taking out the molasses – why not just add it back in to make a more natural brown sugar?  It’s not perfect, but it seems like a good compromise!  I know, I know – it’s still white sugar – that nasty stuff that so many people are trying to eliminate entirely from their diets – but we adhere to the “everything in moderation” motto, and so we make and use brown sugar.

The girls made chocolate chip cookie dough today and depleted my supply.  Time to replenish!

Our ingredients…granulated white sugar and…molasses – sulphured or unsulphured – whatever’s your pleasure!

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FIrst I dump the sugar into the mixer…turn it on and then pour in molasses as it mixes…You’ll see it gradually become more uniform in color…

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Starting to look about right…

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Just a little more mixing…

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Starting to clump…almost there

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Yep!  Looks about right!

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And there you have it!  And as long as there’s sugar and molasses around, I never run out of brown sugar any more!

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Spintastic!

Had so much fun meeting some very talented fiber artists last Sunday!

Dayna Mankowski, fiber artist and owner of Madison Wool, brought a field trip of knitters, felters, and spinners to Morning Star Meadows following a eating-extravaganza at S & P Oyster in Mystic.

They all arrived with their “Food and Fiber Field Trip” buttons, wheels, needles, lovely hand knit or woven sweaters, hats and accessories (can you say ‘wool jewelry’?!) and smiling faces, and we took them to the barn to get set up and peruse the fall fleeces prior to meeting the Fiber Stars of the day – the sheep!

I think they all enjoyed our walk-about after their big meal.

 

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Everyone wanted to meet the sheep whose fleece they were purchasing that day.  A little handful of corn helped facilitate that!

 

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We headed back to the barn for tea and fiber fellowship!

 

It was amazing to watch Dayna as she dove right into her newly purchased bag of raw lamb’s fleece and begin creating some lovely thick yarn!

 

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I was treadling away at my very uninspired thin and even (relatively!) spun yarn.  I was intrigued to watch a true fiber artist at work!

And Dayna was SO kind to bring me one of her art batts that she custom made for me – and even named for me!

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After they all went home, as dusk was approaching and the barn was getting chilly, I started to think how fun it would be to spin this fun fiber, and soon got down to it!

Here’s the batt opened up

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I had Dayna show me how to add the curly locks, so now it was time to see if I could do it!   Apparently there are no “mistakes” with art yarn!

Here’s the beginning of it

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Ok – now THIS is fun!  Had to let the girls have a try!

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And this is what we ended up with!  Rainbow sparkle goodness!  Now to decide what to make with it!  I’m sure that will be nearly as fun!

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Thank you, Dayna and all who attended our first Fiber Field Trip!  We hope you’ll be back again soon!  Thank you for all of your purchases, and we hope you will share photos of your fiber art with us!!

 

And for the rest of you – if you have time at the end of November, you can visit a great group of artists – including Dayna and her fiber artist friend Laura Lyons, whom I was privileged to meet here on Sunday, at their Open Studios for Shoreline Arts Trail 2013!  There’s something for everyone!

How do you shell your peas?

Or should I perhaps ask, “Where?”  

Do your fresh, sweet shelling peas make it from the garden to the house, or are the vast majority of them consumed straight off of the vine?!

As we were picking from our last crop of peas today I overheard the children arguing about the best way to shell peas.

“You have to zip it open, then pull it apart.”

“I just break it.  That’s faster.”

And then I heard what I knew I was destined to hear…

 

CRUNCH!

 

Yep.  That arguing of course resulted in shelled peas, which of course NEEDED to be consumed right from the pod because they just look so fresh and delicious that once they’re shelled it’s hard to wait any longer to eat them!

This show of pea-shelling-superiority quickly degraded into a pea-consuming-fest.  

Quickly realizing what was about to happen when I later noticed how few peas were in their basket, oldest daughter in attendance at said pea fest queried, 

“Is it OK if we eat some?”

How could I say, “No?”  I was just as guilty as they were!

 

A pea shelling and eating contest ensued…3 pods had to be shelled and eaten in the shortest time.  The contest was repeated multiple times for a “best of 3…or 4…or however many.”

We did end up bringing something back to the house to throw into our salad tonight, thankfully…

 

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Fall Shearing!

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Autumn is upon us!  The leaves are slowly changing…

The girls had grown the nicest fleeces this summer — it was time to shear!

After a night in the barn to keep the dew from settling on their wool over night, we drove them up to the shearing area around 8am.  It was going to be a gorgeous day, weather-wise!  Nice and dry and sunny!

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What’s on for today, huh?!

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Look at these beautiful fleeces!  Blacks, browns, all shades of white!  Long and luxurious!

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As much work as we have to do today, theres’ always time to cuddle a friend, Chesta!

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Or share your hat with her!  Snappy look, Chesta!

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We’ll start out with a few white fleeces…

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First blow with the shearers…Roxanne’s back unzipped…

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Lots of silky white locks…
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It’s IN THE BAG!

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Roxanne’s daughter, Lisa, is next…nothing like fluffy white Icelandic lamb fleece!  Soft and oh-so-dyeable!

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Everyone’s wondering who’s next!
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Nope, Shirely – your number’s not up yet – more white fleeces first…

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Time for Millie…she might be the matron of the flock, but she still makes some really nice, long fleece!

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Then Millie’s white lamb, Missy, followed by Missy’s moorit twin, Guadalupe.

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Gotta love moorits!
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Here’s Guadalupe, doing her lioness imitation…

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Yes, Fatima – after a blade change on the shears, it’s your turn…DSC02287

Like her mom, Millie, a wonderful, long staple length…

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All finished, Fatima’s checking out the fleeces so far…

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After Fatima’s black lamb, Chesta, is finished, it’s time for a lunch break…Not a bad morning’s work!DSC02269

The girls who are finished are turned out in the pasture…

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Here’s Shirley’s ewe, Lily, with her lioness impression…really shows how long her fleece is!  She’s got orange on her lips from receiving her vitamins earlier…

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Taking a break for some hoof trimming…DSC02246

Bruna’s Birta having her feet trimmed, too…DSC02245

And so ends the day!  With hours to spare for our normal Saturday chores that still remain!

In the lower pasture, the yearlings are reintroduced to the rest of the ewes after a summer apart…there are a few scuffles as everyone reestablishes who’s boss!  Lambs and ewes take a bit to recognize each other again without their fleeces!

Happy naked sheep!  And don’t worry – their fleeces will grow back quickly before it gets too cold!

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