Thursday, August 26, 2010

Making felted soap

My aunt Britt-Marie lives in Sweden and since a few years back she owns and operates a certified organic sheep farm together with her partner Unto. What I love about this farm, apart from the organic side, is that she takes care of everything from her sheep (meat, pelts, wool) and she practices what I can only refer to as "good stewardship farming." What I mean by that is that she is careful to not deplete the natural resources that her farm provides - the areas for the sheep (and one llama!) to graze, as well as the areas where she grows her feed.

Britt-Marie knows how to shear her sheep, she knows how to wash, dye and spin the wool and she also knits, sews, felts and does other crafty and beautiful works of art with the materials her sheep provide.Her sheep are all registered "old world" breeds and she carefully selects her breeding pairs each season.

She also has provided me with three awesome and wonderful cousins! :-) Too bad
they live so far away!

My aunt taught me how to
do needle felting a few summers back, and I brought some of her wool back home with me. I've always wanted to try to make felted soap, and when my best girlfriend Leslie and her daughter Sydney came to visit, the perfect opportunity arose.

I found the basic instructions from Mielke's Fiber Arts on a page complete with pictures.

Here are some pictures from our session:
First we started by separating the wool fibers. By hand, since I don't have any carders.

This was not Sydney's favorite part. :-) But we got through it.

Then we wrapped the wool around the soap, either mish-mash colors, or I made some patterned ones.

We dribbled warm water over the wool and soap and started rubbing lightly. Eventually the soap started sudsing.

And sudsing....

And the wool started to shrink around the soap.
Wondering why I'm wearing gloves? I have exzema on my hands. It's a bad outbreak and being in water makes it much worse. So I wear gloves when I'm in water, when I do the dishes, when I bake, when I garden....not fun....ah well.

And then we let them dry. All done! Felted soap work just like scrubbies in the shower. Natural wool scrubs your skin while the soap washes.It was fun - and I highly recommend doing this with kids.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Belated New Mexico Pictures

Balloon Festival in Raton, NM

Sean and I went to New Mexico for a Fluhman family reunion over the July 4th weekend. We flew in to Albuquerque and then drove through Santa Fe to the northeaster corner of New Mexico. Seans aunt and uncle have a "camp" near the small town of Raton, NM, just outside Sugarite Canyon State Park. It was a perfect location since the park had showers that we could use, just a few minutes from where we were staying. There was only so many beds under a roof, and we let the children sleep in the cabins since there had been plenty of bears around.... It was wonderful to meet more of Sean's family and they are all very nice...even to a foreigner like me! :-) This area is beautiful, and I can highly recommend it for vacation. Hope you enjoy the pictures.

Sugarite Canyon State Park includes the ruins of an old coal mining village. This building sits on the mountainside before the village and supposedly it was a hotel of some sort. You can still see wall colors and the tiled bathroom.

Sean practices his fly fishing skills in Sugarite Canyon State Park.

Friendly chipmunk at the old mining village ruins.

I missed Kane terribly, but luckily one of Sean's uncles has a German Shepherd Ranch Dog! Meet Radar - he was our bear chaser dog for the weekend. Just days before we arrived he was practicing that job...Radar is only 3 and has been snakebit twice!

Sean's aunt and uncles own and operate a cattle ranch which has been in the family since Sean's grandparents.
It's beautiful country out here.

These boots were made for workin'.... I found this pile in a barn on the ranch.

Open country on the Fluhman Ranch.

Near the Fluhman ranch is Mills Canyon. A total surprise. Imagine the previous picture - pretty much flat country as far as you can see. A few trees here and there. Mills Canyon is a deep gorge formed by the Canadian River. It is lush and green. Luckily our rental was an AWD, and Sean is an expert navigator of rough roads.
We drove down to the bottom to take a look.

Melvin Mills built a hotel here in the late 19th century. The ruins of two buildings still stand along with remnants of Mills Canyon Enterprises - a 14,000 tree orchard with apples, peaches, plums, pears, cherry, walnut, almond and chestnut complete with irrigation, cisterns etc.

Here you can see the remnants of his fruit dehydrator. A flood in 1904 completely wiped out Mr. Mills operation and he died poor in 1925. Supposedly you can still find some fruit trees throughout the canyon.

What a place this must have been back in the days. Supposedly there was a cargo tramway that brought all the produce up 800ft to get to the railroad.

On our way back home, we drove through the mountains of southern Colorado. I've always been in love with the Rocky Mountains, since I was a small child. We stopped at this mountain stream, wow - it was c-c-c-cold!!

Hello future place where I will live someday. This is the Conejos River Valley in Colorado.
Sean and I decided we should live here. At some point.
This is my desktop image on my laptop at work. So that I know what I am working towards. :-)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Delicious Tomato Pesto Pie

Our tomatoes are just starting to come in. We had some end-rot early on, but now that seems to have gone away. It has been one hot summer, and I think we were a little inconsistent with the watering. Lately I've been feeding the tomatoes and up until now we have been watering twice a day.

Along with my tomatoes, I've planted plenty of basil. I made some basil pesto the other day with our own garlic and then I found this recipe for Tomato Basil Pesto Pie. Perfect!

All you need are ingredients to make a simple crust (flour, butter, baking powder, milk and salt), parmesan cheese (which you can put in the crust as well!), ingredients for basil pesto (more parmesan cheese, basil, garlic, pinenuts or almonds, olive oil) and then you add sliced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, and more parmesan cheese. I used some plum tomatoes and some others Genovese tomatoes that happened to be ready. The crust calls for milk and since I only drink fat free milk, I added some greek yogurt to my crust. Yum, yum, yum. I had some for dinner last night. I am having it for lunch today and hopefully I will have some for dinner as well.

The crust is perfect for soaking up the pesto and tomato juice and the cheese....oh this is so, incredibly good! You have to try it! It bakes in the oven for 40 minutes, and prep time was for me about 30 minutes. I hope you like it as much as I did! :-)

Here's the recipe for Farmgirl's Savory Plum Tomato and Basil Pesto Pie.
Finny over at Finny Knits has a version adding sausage for you meat lovers.
She also has a nifty page describing what she makes from her farmshare box. Cool way to categorize her recipes.

Cheesy Yumminess.

I'm getting hungry just looking at these pictures. Is it lunch-time yet?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My kind of gold

Golden Yellow/White potatoes are my kind of gold!
These are Carola and Yellow Finn potatoes that I dug up in the morning this past Sunday - before we made it up to 108F.
Lots of potatoes!

Then I made this - Rosemary Potatoes Au Gratin from Pioneer Woman's Cookbook. Yum!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hot Garden Update

Here's a quick pictorial garden update. As you can tell from the picture above from The Weather Channel - it's HOT! My husband is away on business for a while, so all the yardwork (and housework) falls to me. On the weekends I spend from 8am until 11am in the garden and then I go inside and wait until temperatures drop around 7pm. Ugh.

I have some zinnias in our garden and they seem to LOVE the heat. In turn, the butterflies and the bees love the zinnias (and hopefully pollinate my tomatoes and peppers!)

Most of our tomatoes are green, but they are starting to turn. And crack. From the heat. :-(

The basil looks so pretty with the purple petunia wave flowers around the birdbath (yes, this is also in our veggie garden, in the middle of the peppers.)

Cucumbers are still going strong. I pick at least 6-10 every day. It makes my colleagues at work very happy!

Aren't these sunflowers adorable? Not sure what they are called, but they are about 10ft tall and these smaller 3 inch flowers. They make me smile!

The mini-maters are back! I enjoy these on my salads. From only ONE plant this year, and this was self-seeded!

More pretty zinnias.

Some peppers are coming in. They are delicious. Hopefully they love the hot weather!

A bell pepper!

The gorgeous Costoluto Genovese tomatoes.

Lima Beans!

Eggplant Bloom.


And I leave you with a picture of our bi-color Crepe Myrtle. They are everywhere in the south, but ours is the only bi-color I've ever seen. I think they must have done a cutting and attached it and it was a different color. We have three of these going up the driveway, and this year they are really taking off. Probably because I finally read up on how to prune them correctly and they are showing off their gratitude! :-)

Have a great week, everyone! Stay cool, dry - wherever you are!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


When life gives you cucumbers - you make pickles!!! I went just a tad overboard on planting cucumbers this year. Last year it was the currant tomatoes, this year it is definitely cucumbers. So far we've made tzatziki, asian cucumbers, quick pickled cucumbers, had cucumbers on our salads and finally given away loads of cucumbers to friends and colleagues. Still we have plenty. But, it's good to have plenty. :-)

My grandmother in Sweden makes two different kinds of pickles every year that are delicious. One is a dill pickle and one is a bread&butter type recipe. This was my next mission with all the cucumbers; make pickles like grandma's!

The dill pickles were made with a brine solution of water, mustard seeds, dill seed, salt and spirit vinegar. We have imported spirit vinegar from Sweden which is a 12% vinegar. I have tried making another batch using american vinegar which is 5% and re-calculating the recipe to get the same % of vinegar acidity and the same amount of liquid. They will be ready in early August and if they turn out - I will post the recipe!

The dill pickles are layered with fresh dill and grape leaves. Grandma uses black currant leaves. They supposedly have an enzyme in them that keeps the pickles from going soft.
The bread and butter pickles are first sliced, layered with dill and mustard seed and then marinated in a vinegar-salt-sugar brine. Yum! Here is the recipe:

Pernilla's Bread & Butter Pickles (adapted)

2.2 lbs small pickling cucumbers
2 tbsp yellow or brown mustard seeds
plenty of dill, preferably dill crowns (flowers) as well

1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups water
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup salt

Wash and slice the cucumbers - discard blossom ends. Place the cucumbers in glass jar(s) layered with the dill and mustard seeds. Mix together the ingredients for the brine until the sugar and salt has dissolved - this brine should NOT be boiled. Pour the brine over the cucumber slices. Marinate for 3 weeks. The jars should be kept in a cool dark place.
I used large glass jars (see below) for the first 4-5 days and weighted down the cucumbers with glass jars filled with water. After 4-5 days, I transferred the cucumbers (plus brine plus extras) to smaller jars and kept them in the fridge until the 3 weeks were up. Mainly because it's so doggone hot down here this time of year and I was afraid they would go bad.

My grandparents (like most older farm houses in Sweden) have an earth cellar and so neither recipe call for the actual process of canning. I ended up test-canning two jars of the dill pickles, and they turned for the future, those pickles will be kept in the fridge. We eat them fast anyway!!! :-)

Sorry for not blogging a lot lately, but work and life has been hectic. Our garden is keeping us busy and soon I will have some posts on that. Sean and I had some overdue vacation time in New Mexico with his family as well, and I will post some pictures soon.

Hope your gardens are boutiful as well!