Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Glory to God in the highest. Peace on Earth. Goodwill to men.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Handmade gifts

The last custom orders were delivered on Thursday. A bit later than usual this year, but then there were a few more than usual.

So Friday we started making our Christmas gifts for our family. Yes, I know, that is really, really late. And some of them I had started earlier and had them all finished before now -- especially the handwoven ones. But I don't have gifts for Robin, Sarah or a few others yet.

We have a family tradition of giving hand made gifts to those who value them, among our family members. No made in China under the tree from me.

Living in the country has made this tradition a necessity. I haven't been shopping since September except to the grocery store. And I wasn't thinking in September that I should be doing Christmas shopping.

And then a trip to Kelowna to shop means a 6 hour drive at this time of year. There's a lot one can create in 6 hours at home.

So with only 6 sleeps till Christmas, what can a person do? Well, I nuno felted a shawl in the new Ashford merino and silk rovings in Christmas red (pomegranate) and green (peppercorn) for my sister in law -- time 3 hours. Robin knit some sock machine socks for his brother (4 hrs) and we made up a diabetic foot care kit -- wool/mohair socks, toe nail clippers, and Joybilee Farm peppermint foot cream.

Then I found a knitting pattern that can be knit in 2 hours and finished in 1 hour. Very cute felted slippers that use worsted weight wool -- I have lots of this. I downloaded the French Press Slippers pattern on Ravelry and I've finished two pair since Friday morning. One is for me. One is a secret. And Sarah wants a pair under the tree, so I'll get that one done today.

Our friends Connie and Dave have the handmade gift giving down to a science. They make the same gift for all their family members -- production knitting or weaving. With a new idea every year -- usually their own design. I haven't mastered that one yet, but it seems like a good plan for next year. Our family has expanded by two new members -- so streamlining the gift making may be a good idea.

I will so enjoy this week -- The tree went up last Sunday. The shortbread was baked by Sarah yesterday. The gifts are being delivered in Abbotsford and Vancouver today. And I get to spin, knit and weave all week, for my own family. How good is that!

Merry Christmas! and Happy Hogmany!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Water, water every where

No water. The cold froze the gravity fed water system on the mountain side. Robin went up in the dark, with a wind up flash light and the 4 dogs and broke the ice and channelled the water into the water box. And the house system gradually filled again.

That was 4 days ago. Then the pipe in the stock water covered over with ice and Robin broke the ice and inadvertently broke the pipe as well. Water gushed forth at the lowest point in our gravity fed system. The house emptied of water and water.

Then Gavin, our neighbor, came over and helped Robin repair the pipe, replace the faucet and attach a new output pipe. About an hour later the output pipe blew off from the built up pressure and again the house emptied of water, while water gushed forth in the pasture, uncontrolled.

Last night, in the dark, lit by the headlits of the borrowed Honda Fit, Robin again repaired the pipe, a little tighter this time. After about an hour the house again had water pressure and water flowing in the taps.

And today we have water -- reliable, flowing water. Amazing how precious water, in control, is and how frustrating and damaging when it is out of control.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Making music

There is a satisfying similarity between a well dressed loom and a finely made harp. This is a Dusty Strings FH26 Celtic harp, in Walnut. It sounds warm and mellow with a brightness in the treble voice.

I learned this week that the celtic harp originated in Scotland around 1,000 AD. There were harps in Egypt and mesopotamia around 3,000BC but they lacked the upright pillar for stability -- appearing more like a bow than a triangular harp. The lyre of the Middle East and Greece is actually a psaltry (as is the guitar) rather than a harp, since the strings run across the sound board.

With winter at our door and darkness creeping over the farm at around 4pm each day, we are again dusting off our instruments and making music together as a family. We deeply miss Ian's beautiful bass -- both the instrument and his voice. But we trust he is making music in his new home and playing duets with his lovely and talented bride. Sarah has her 120 year old mandolin in fine tune and also accompanies us on piano. She is getting more at ease with our family ensemble each year. Robin is using my guitar (his guitar is on loan to a friend) and is discipling himself to learn the notes rather than just chording. I play the recorder and long to learn a more full voiced instrument.

Our children have all benefited from music lessons from 6 years old to graduation. We purchased the best quality instruments for them that we could afford at the time. I've wanted music lessons since I was 7 years old and the time has never been right for our family to invest in mother's music making. We decided that it is my turn, now that Sarah is close to graduation. But at 50, I don't have much time left to master an instrument.

So after examing several options and the size and fragility of my hands, we are exploring the harp as a possibility. The harp is an instrument that one can make beautiful music on in just a year or two of lessons. It plays wonderfully in a small ensemble and can be played alone for the pleasure of its voice as well.

The melodic vibrations are healing to the body and soul. And its music gives pleasure and relaxation to those who hear its voice. Its also an instrument that would compliment the other instuments in the family -- afterall there is only room for one piano.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Recipe: Butter Tarts

Our first Christmas Faire is today in Oliver. Robin is there and Sarah and I are at the farm, feeding livestock, creating product (today that is dyeing a skein of angora/silk yarn for a baby hat, with nautural indigo), and keeping the house.

Good thing we are home as the chimney repair/inspector just drove in to fix a masonry crack in the wood stove chimney.

Robin set up alone and will be manning the booth alone. Hope he has a good show over the next two days.

In the flurry of getting ready for the show I needed a quick, sweet treat, to send along with Robin.

Here's my fail safe butter tart recipe, using prepared tart shells. This is from my Grade 8 home economics class. I've never seen it in a recipe book. Its also great to mix up quickly to take to a potluck or a fund raising bake sale.

Butter Tarts (yield 40)
40 prepared tart shells
3 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted (don't substitute margarine)
2 eggs
2 tbsp. vinegar
1 1/2 cups raisins, dried cranberries or other dried fruit
1 cup chopped nuts (slivered almonds, hazelnuts, walnut pieces, sunflower seeds)

Mix together sugar, eggs, and butter. Add vinegar and mix well. Add dried fruit and nuts and mix. Fill tart shells 2/3rds full. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes or until tart shells are golden brown and filling is bubbly but only medium brown. Don't over bake. Cool before serving.

Variation: Omit the fruit, and add 2 cups of pecans in place of the nuts for pecan tarts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Art Spaces

I attended a seminar on Friday about Art and Economic Development with Lanie McMullin, from Everett Washington. It was quite informative and Lanie is a new spinner so that made it more enjoyable.

As I contemplated on the things she talked about:
Cities using artists to increase the desirability of their communities to the "knowledge base workforce" and to attract business and tourism....

I contemplated about the places where art is created -- even fiber art -- both the physical spaces like studios, arts districts, and livingrooms and the mental spaces -- the places where you have time, creativity and permission to make art.

I realized that as a Christian, my art and cultural symbols are not acceptable in the mainstream artistic world. So be it. But as a Christian artist, my art is also not acceptable in the church. This troubles me. As we come up to the advent season what passes for "art" in the church is commercialized drivel -- not a powerful cultural statement of the joy and hope of a friendship with the living creator God. "Art" as a medium for worship and edification -- as in the works of the great Dutch Masters -- is lost. And the church is impoverished for it. This was was emphasized by an experience I had yesterday.

This Sunday, the poster for the Boundary Artisan Association Christmas Faire was removed from the Community Bulletin Board located in our church foyer. Perhaps, someone found the artistic rendition of the "Northern Lights" offensive. Perhaps they thought that the Northern Lights were dancing (They do!) I was not informed of the reason that my poster was taken down and folded up out of sight.

There are 3 artisans from our church that will be selling at the BAA Christmas Faire next weekend. Many of the other artisans at the faire are Christians, as well. In fact, almost half of the artisans in the faire are Christian artists. This Faire will be their only opportunity to sell in the community this season. Most hope to earn a quarter to half, of their annual income from their Christmas sales. It seems that they cannot hope to gain the support of their faith community.

And the church just had a 10 Thousand Villages (MCC) sale to support artisans overseas -- which included a video commercial with an artisan carving a Kokopelli image (a central american fertility god!) The image was flashed on the screen several times in the church service. So why offence at our local artisans?

It comes down to art spaces -- permission to create -- space to be creative in and a receptive audience for the work. Here's hoping that your art space is more embracing than mine.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remember ...

... and be thankful.

--6 million European Jews and 10 million European Christians died in the Holocaust.

70,000 young Canadian men died in WW 1 and 150,000 were wounded -- fighting someone else's war.

42,000 Canadian soldiers died in WW 2 and 60,000 were wounded -- young Canadian men and women, fighting someone else's war.

Today our Canadian soldiers continue to fight in wars that someone else created. Their sacrifice has preserved our democracy and secure the freedoms that we currently enjoy -- guard those freedoms and never take them for granted.

"Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

- John McCrae, a Canadian medical officer

Friday, November 06, 2009

Computers and Time

I joined facebook yesterday. Not that I need another time wasting computer "to-do". My daughter needed a "neighbor" for a online game she is playing called "Farmville". So I agreed to sign up.

Well the strange thing is, once I had signed up there were at least 50 people that I knew already there, and the computer was asking me to "friend" them. But I don't have time to read the walls of 50 people every day, so I will be content to just be friends with my bless-ed daughter, who needs a friend right now.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Fall sheared greasy Fleece

The lamb's wool fleece are now up on the website. One has already been sold.

We are using a 50/50 rambouillet/romney ram and the fleeces have been getting finer and softer every year.

The kid mohair fleeces are also listed. There are a few black, grey and mocha fleeces available this year.

I am still working on weighing and grading the yearling (3rd clip) and adult fleeces. I'll let you know when they are also on the website.

Recipe: Cheese Cake Tarts - Yield 40

Here's a quick holiday dessert recipe using 40 premade tart shells:

750 grams of cream cheese, softened. (I use home made chevre but you can use any cream cheese)
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of flour (optional)
4 eggs

Cream together all ingredients. Divide cream cheese into 3 portions.

Chocolate cheese cake : Add 1/2 cup cocoa powder and cream well.

Lemon cheese cake: Add grated lemon rind and 2 tsp. of lemon extract.

Almond cheese cake: Add 2 tsp. of almond flavouring and sprinkle the top of the tarts with slivered almonds.

Fill tart shells to full. Bake at 300F for 35 minutes or until cheese cake is set. Cool on cooling racks and then refrigerate until ready to serve.

These may be frozen in an airtight container for future use. Thaw for 1 hour before serving. Garnish with whip cream, chocolate curls, or raspberry sauce.

Optional: This recipe will also make one regular cheese cake but you need to make a crumb crust. It needs 1 1/2 hours to bake and a longer chilling period.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Being blessed by Friends

Our friends showed up today with 3 pickup truck loads of firewood -- yes, 4 different friends and 3 truck loads and not all at the same time. And they didn't all know each other. What a wonderful blessed surprise.

We have a week of good, dry weather with stormy weather predicted for the weekend and we had only 1 1/2 cords of wood stored for the winter. With Robin's trips to the coast to see his brother he was running short of time.

But now the wood stock has at least doubled. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the kindness of our friends!!!!! Just one more load of fire wood and we will be ready for the snow to come. Neighbor Gavin, is coming tomorrow to cut wood with Robin -- so by Friday we should be secure for firewood for the winter. Thank you, friends. (You know who you are)

Wednesday update: Two neighbors came this morning and helped Robin cut up a downed spruce. In just an hour, with two limbing and one sawing, our stock of firewood for the season was complete. What a wonderful blessing! It would have taken Robin, by himself, all day to do this job.

You need to know that we did not arrange any of this goodness. It was Providence that arranged it. Praise God.

Monday, November 02, 2009

My clutter problem

Robin is returning home today with a Honda Fit, borrowed from brother John and Laverne. We may buy it from them if it feels right to Robin, after driving it home. I'm looking forward to seeing my husband again, after an almost week long separation. After 27 years of marriage this is a good thing, no?

I am slowly working away at conquering the clutter -- I was able to work on it only partially last week as much time was spent doing 'chores', cooking and laundry. I hope to tackle the herbs that are still hanging around the house, well dry now, from the summer's harvest. Then a major clean up before bed.

You wouldn't believe, looking at my house, that I work from 6am till almost midnight, every day. But its true. In fact, every day it takes almost an hour just to clean up the stuff my family members dropped around the house, the day before. I would get more production work done if my family members were more considerate of where they drop their loads and clothing. Plus my husband and daughter have pack rat syndrome, in a moderate way. I can't change them and they refuse to be "trained" so I must work at the clutter on my own, one area at a time. The draw back is a lack of inventory for the upcoming Christmas Faires -- so be it -- we aint gonna starve with all the food I've put by this harvest season.

Company is coming for dinner on Wednesday. The clutter is one reason I so rarely invite people over for dinner. I feel terribly guilty about it and fear the judgment of my guests. But then I think, are they coming to eat and visit or to admire my house? Running a business and homeschooling, out of your living space are somethings I haven't mastered. Tips anyone?

One of our wwoofers suggested that I change one thing and that the rest of the house would fall into place. I removed a long table from the entrance hall, that was being piled high with stuff as fast as I could clear it. I replaced it with a smaller table, applied a linen table cloth and some pretty baskets to hold a small amount of stuff. But it overflows as well. It stays clear for only as long as it takes someone to walk through the door. Ditto for kitchen counter, dining room tables, school desks, dresser tops, couches, loom benches, and coffee tables. Even floor spaces are beginning to be encroached upon. Any tidy, cleared surface is a magnet for clutter.

Have we always lived like this? No. When Robin was teaching I was able on a daily basis to clean up the clutter so that the house looked organized -- even with toddlers and homeschooling. But that house had closets and cupboards in every room, whereas this log house doesn't. And in that house we weren't running a homebased business or raising 100 sheep and goats, who need to have their fleeces stored.

So I will continue to tackle this clutter a bit every day. If you prefer a tidy house to a warm, friendly visit and home grown food, don't come to my house for tea, you will be disappointed. ;^)

Sunday, November 01, 2009


Here it is Sunday morning -- November 1st. I am very behind on production work. Life has been getting in the way of my plans. It seems that how ever long I think something will take its actual time is multiplied by the next unit. So if I think something will take 1 hour it will actually take 1 day -- 1 day jobs take 1 week -- etc. This is a rule of homesteading. This is also my excuse for all the things on my to do list that are far from being completed.

The loom is languishing as we try to stay warm, cook our food and take care of the needs of the animals. I have a car on loan from a friend and managed, on friday, to get to the post office for the first time in a week -- mail a parcel, pick up mail, and retrieve my consignment yarn from the local knitting store, before they closed for the winter.

Yesterday was maintenance all day -- going through Sarah's clothes closet and discarding the things that she isn't wearing, are the wrong colour, or no longer fit. Making chili for today's gathering, and extra for a family in need of meals while the mother gestates twins and throws up. (Poor woman). Searching for an hour, at sunset, across 140 acres, for a "lost" elderly goat, who was in the barn all the time. Baking cinnamin buns and making chevre (soft goat cheese) for our breakfast today. This was my day. But no production work. The Christmas faires are just 3 weeks away.

Robin is still in Vancouver. His brother, John, was transferred back to VGH, from GF Strong (rehab centre) on Friday with a bladder and chest infection. He is sitting in emergency because there are no ventilator beds available at Vancouver General. He has no call button that he can use so a family member needs to be with him constantly. Robin spent the night with John to be his call button should he need help, so that Laverne, John's wife, could sleep.

I did get the Peppermint Foot Cream completed. But I have so much more to do before the first show in Oliver. Plus there are ads to write for the Boundary Artisan Christmas Faire and a meeting next week. And cleaning out the barn, plucking rabbits, doing the custom orders for socks and baby hats.

One day at a time -- one job at a time. It may not all get done but I hope the most important things are done on time.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My day --

The car cannot be fixed so Robin is shopping for a car. Christopher (eldest son) and Robin will be going to the car dealers this afternoon and test driving Toyotas and Hondas. He has a line on a few used corollas, too.

And hopefully he'll get back to GF Strong to visit John again, today. He planned to visit all day for a few days but it is not to be. I hope he can get in for two or three hours each day he is in Vancouver, though.

In the meantime we are battened down on the farm. There is new snow on the ground and the hoses from summer waterings are still lying there, now frosted. So there is some "ground work" to be done today, gathering up the gardening tools and hoses and putting them away for winter. It will mean several trips up the hill from garden to house as we have no car to help with the job. Too bad we didn't do it last week, in the rain, with the car.

Yesterday, at 11pm, I made a new batch of peppermint foot cream and used our new glass jars for the first time. They hold more foot cream but look much like the PET plastic jars. They are glass so kinder to the environment, and without the risk of leaking chemicals and hormones into our product -- so kinder to humans, too.

I didn't get to the felting of the spa bars or the felted balls. Hopefully today I will get some felting done. I am past half way on the first woven origami bag but too busy to get to the loom today.

I also weighed the 10 lamb fleeces that we sheared on Monday. Package two boxes of fleece to go to the post office. And spent an inordinate amount of time on the telephone. It seemed to be ringing all day.

Today I will label and seal the Peppermint foot cream jars, continue to attack the clutter in the house (I'm giving one hour a day to the mammoth job), do barn chores, and hopefully get some felting done for the Christmas Craft Fairs. Also I hope to have the lamb fleeces measured and up on the website today.

That's the plan. The first task though is to light the wood stove, which is reluctant this morning and get the daughter out of bed, without waking "grumpy", too.

Have a good day.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dead car

The faithful, never had a problem before, 16 year old Toyota Corolla has died. Leaving Robin at the side of the TransCanada Hwy. in Langley, after delivering 3 French Angora Rabbits to their new owner last night. The bad news is its the engine and it needs to be replaced -- $1,500 or there abouts. And it won't be fixed until Monday, if an engine can be found.

So Robin is at Maiwa on Vancouver Island shopping for my natural indigo, while the mechanic takes care of things. At noon he will be at BF Strong Rehab in Vancouver visiting his big brother John for a few hours. Then we will find out whether the car can be fixed. And he will have to figure out where he can crash until the car is fixed. (excuse the pun!)

My friend, Jan, sent this poem to encourage me this morning...

"How good is the God we adore, Our faithful, unchangeable Friend
Whose love is as great as His power, And knows neither measure nor end.
Tis Jesus the First and the Last, Whose Spirit will guide us safe home
We'll praise Him for all that is past, And trust Him for all that's to come."

I'm sure that I will look back on today and see how the hand of God worked it all out for my good, but right now its a bit stressful. But its not raining. The mucky ground is frozen so its not difficult to do chores. And we have everything we need for the next 5 days at home.

We just can't get off the farm.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Kid fleeces are up on the website!

I completed the sorting, weighing, measuring and pricing all the mohair kid fleeces from October's shearing.

There are both white and coloured kid fleeces this year -- 9 of each, and some of the coloured fleeces are scrumptious.

Have a look.

We are shearing lamb fleeces on Monday. They are dry now. Yes! Hope to have those up on the website by next Saturday.

Homestead Medicine Cabinet: Flax jelly for sore throats

The rain has stopped. The sky is clear. The sheep are damp and the shearer is coming on Sunday. I hope we get some wind to dry the fleeces. I have a line up of people waiting for lamb fleeces in natural chocolate, grey and white.

In the mean time, today I will finish the mohair fleece weighing, reskirting and labeling and get the list out to those patient people that are waiting...

And Robin has a cold (I hope its not the flu!). So we are feeding him flax jelly with honey and lemon. That and vitamin C and vitamin D3. He says the flax helps.

Flax jelly is the oldest herbal remedy known. It has stood the test of time. It helps with chest congestion, cough and sore throat. Make it just before you consume it. It thickens as it cools.

Recipe: Flax Jelly for colds or flu
2 tbsp. whole flax seed
1 cup of water
Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 min. Strain immediately and reserve the clear liquid. Mix in one tsp. honey and 1 tsp. lemon juice. Drink it down immediately.

It is the consistency of snot, errr, I mean egg white. Not pleasant but it is medicine and it doesn't taste bad. And it does help with the symptoms of a sore throat, cough and chest congestion. Robin says, "You get used to it."

The actions of flax seed are: demulcent (soothes), anti-tussive (prevents coughing), laxative, emollient, and vulnerary(wound healing).

You can also use flax jelly without the honey and lemon, as an egg white substitute in baking, or as an aftershave lotion. Or take the jelly and seeds together in a cotton cloth and use it externally as a warm plaster over the chest, to reduce congestion.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rain impedes my progress

The mohair fleeces are waiting to be skirted a second time, weighed and priced. My skirting table is set up outside the studio door. It is raining and has been for a week or more. The weather is impinging on my "To Do" list.

The shearer is coming back sometime in the next two weeks -- I don't know when -- to shear the lambs. We ran out of time at the beginning of the month and didn't get the 20 lambs and sheep done. Its now about 8 weeks past the time I wanted them sheared. And its raining. They are wet.

Snow will be here soon, possibly within the next two weeks.

The rain is also inhibiting the gathering of fire wood, the cleaning out of the barn and the putting to bed of the garden for the winter.

But the loom is looming. And the clutter in the house is asking for attention. So I will have to shift my priorities today.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Homestead Skills: Making Chevre (goat's milk cream cheese)

Cheese making is like bread making. It takes time and you have to be there to give it the attention it needs, when it needs it.

Sometimes there is extra milk for cheese making but I have to go out and can't be at home to give it the attention it needs for hard cheese. Making soft cheese like chevre or cream cheese is good for days like this.

Recipe for Chevre -- Makes 1 kg. (2.2 lbs.)

Chevre is soft goat cheese, like what is served in high end restaurants.

To make the chevre you need:

2 gallon pail with a lid
2 gallons of fresh, clean, strained goat's milk
1/4 tsp. mesophilic cheese starter (1/4 cup cultured buttermilk can be used instead)
3 drops of rennet diluted in 1/4 cup of cold water (not a drop more)
Cheese draining cloth
Colander to drain the cheese in
Cheese curd ladle (a flat spoon with holes)

All equipment and the cheese cloth should be clean and scalded with boiling water before starting. Put clean, strained milk in a 2 gallon pail -- I use raw milk. Add starter culture and stir in. Wait 30 min. Add diluted rennet, stir well. Cover and set aside for 12 hours, or until curd forms. Stir curd to break it up. Allow curd to settle in the pail. Line colander with scalded cheese cloth. Scoop curd from the pail into lined colander. Cover and set in a sink to drain. This will take 4 to 6 hours. I leave mine overnight.

If desired you can add 1/2 tsp. salt to the curd before draining or after draining. Divide the batch into 4 -- 250 gram (1/2 lb.) blocks, wrap and freeze as is or flavor according to your tastes, for immediate consumption.

Chevre can be spiced with chives, garlic and onion powder, dill and garlic, smoked salmon, toasted walnuts and dried cranberries, or flavoring of your choice for a savory spread.

Or use it in the place of cream cheese in your favorite cheese cake recipe.

Here's a recipe to take to a holiday potluck:

Easy Chevre Cheese Ball

Oil a small bowl with olive oil, sprinkle thoroughly with pepper and set aside.
Mix together thoroughly:
1/4 cup mayonnaise (you can make your own. Recipe follows)
1/2 cup chevre or other cream cheese
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder

Spoon into prepared bowl and firm into place. Cover and chill for 3 hours.
To serve invert bowl onto plate and remove cheese ball. Serve with crackers or chapatis.

Replace pepper with chopped and toasted walnuts. Replace garlic and onion powder with chopped, dried cranberries.

Mayonnaise (makes 2 cups -- 500 ml)
2 large eggs or 3 medium eggs, separated. Use only the yolks and set aside the whites for another recipe.
2 tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt (if desired)

Mix together in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on low.

1 1/2 cups. cold pressed oil -- I use olive oil.

With the mixer continuously mixing, add the oil, one tablespoon at a time by drizzling it into the egg/acid emulsion. After about 1/2 cup has been added slowly, you will see the emulsion begin to thicken. At that point the oil can be drizzled in a bit faster, always allowing the oil to mix in before adding more.

The mixture will thicken. It will be yellow if you are using farm, fresh eggs, and be rich in vitamin A, D and E. Add the salt or spices as you wish.

Put in a glass jar and store in the fridge. This will keep fresh for about a week. Makes 2 cups. To make a smaller amount decrease each ingredient proportionately.

Use as a base for salad dressings, add to other recipes, use as is.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Warping Back to Front, for the first time

I wound a warp for more handwoven bags today. Took 45 minutes to wind and 3.2 skeins of Shepherd's Joy yarn for an 11 yard warp, 8 inches wide (enough for 3 bags plus sampling). Normally I thread the reed, and the heddles and then wind on the back beam -- Front to Back Warping -- the winding on has always been a hassle, so I don't like to warp.

But when Laura Fry was visiting last April to teach her "Magic in the Water 1" workshop for our guild, she mentioned that we might find it more efficient to warp from the back. She graciously gave us a copy of her fabulous computer instructional video "CD Weaver" and suggested that I try her way of warping. So I looked at the "CD Weaver" last April, found the same method in a Finnish weaving book in the Joybilee Farm textile library, and put the idea on my "gonna" list.

Yesterday I was determined to try this way of warping. So I booted up the CD Weaver, and went to the section "You Have to be Warped to Weave". Ok, so the first thing I did wrong was winding the warp. I twisted the warp on both ends as I went around the pegs to change direction on my warping mill. Laura's "CD Weaver" has very clear pictures of the warping process on a warping board and she winds her warp without the extra twists at each end. Next time I'll try it that way.

Then I rough sleyed the reed -- easy, and took only 20 minutes. Now to the loom, after a quick check of CD weaver to visualize the next step. Laura even provides brief videos so that you can clearly see what she is describing in words. This is a great tool for all learning styles.

With Sarah's help we wound the warp onto the back beam without a single snarl on a mohair warp. Perfect! And so much faster than my previous warping method. Maybe 30 minutes to wind on the 11 yard warp as we were quite careful.

Then came the tricky part -- transfering the cross from in front of the reed to behind the heddles.

Oops! Somehow I dropped half the cross. (Don't ask. Chock it up to a learning experience!) Yikes! Gloom! Despair! and Robin to the rescue. While I mourned my loss and declared our imminent ruin, Robin and Sarah dropped down each warp thread on top of the lease stick and picked up, in order, every lower thread. The cross reappeared. Relief! Thank the Lord, there are practical people living in this household.

So now there's just 80 threads to put through the heddles and the reed and tie on. I'll be weaving by lunch time. Yes!

Thanks to the "CD Weaver" I have a better warping method to use. I may get more weaving done now. Using the "CD Weaver" was like having a personal lesson with Laura, but better because I could go back and review whenever I want to. What a great resource.

If you share my fear of warping, check out Laura's CD Weaver, and try back to front warping for yourself. I'm already looking forward to warping the mohair blanket warp, with my new skills.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Weaving a bag on the Ashford Knitters Loom

I was browsing Terri's blog at Saori Salt Spring and saw an amazing bag that she wove. I was so inspired. I love origami textile constructions.

So I immediately wound a warp 95 inches long, on the Ashford knitters loom -- 8 inches wide using the 10 dpi reed and Joybilee Farm Shepherd's Joy Yarn and wove a long strip.

I chose one skein of yarn space dyed with natural indigo, and several thrum balls dyed with indigo and walnuts, and a lighter indigo. I tried free form weaving to create interest and added indigo dyed kid mohair locks for extra joy. I had fun.

I fulled the strip in the washing machine until the fabric was stable as per Laura Fry's workshop instructions (Magic in the Water 1). Stable means you can't poke your finger between the threads. It was about 15 minutes in the washing machine on hot.

Wow! I love this fabric -- from my own angora goat kids and lamb's. Its soft with amazing drape, yet sturdy.

My strip was too short -- I forgot to take into account the loss of length (15% due to weaving and fulling) The final strip should be 90 inches long and 7 inches wide. Mine was only 80 inches long, but I still have a bag at the end of the weekend. And I really like it.

I also dyed a silk scarf with woad indigo and used half of it to line the bag. I'm planning a second try on the Nilus floor loom with a longer warp, for a longer strap and a deeper bag. I could warp the knitters loom from a warping board to get a longer warp on it, too.

And I've decided that I love this yarn of ours. Sarah and Robin have both used the Joybilee Farm Shepherd's Joy yarn for weaving scarfs but this is my first time weaving with it. And I love it. It is fine enough for a medium weight fabric. Incredibly soft but not too warm. I'm hooked for more weaving with this yarn.

I've wound a 10 yard warp of it for a twill weave blanket on the Mira floor loom -- 45 inches wide. Hopefully there will be time in the next two weeks to get it on the loom. I'm looking forward to weaving more intensely over the next month. The studio is closing on Friday and then I can mess it up with some serious work.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving Sunday in Canada. We are so blessed and thankful for so many good things that God's hand has provided.

Our garden produced very well this year. The killing frost, that usually comes in August was held back until the 3rd week of September. That meant that our potatoes just kept growing and we actually harvested 200 lbs. of potatoes this year.

Our garlic harvest was also glorious and we will not have to buy any this year -- I braided up 10 braids of a dozen garlic heads each, plus planted another 5 dozen heads of garlic for next year's harvest. That's at least double the yield over last year.

This morning was -16C and the last of the chinese cabbage and chard was harvested just 2 days ago. The woad is still in the garden and seems unharmed by the frost so we will try to get a few more dye vats of woad before the snow comes.

It does feel as if snow is on its way.

So many friends have shared their garden abundance with us this year -- squash, tomatoes, peppers, beans, apples, pears, plums -- even zucchini -- all things that we can't grow here on the mountain -- and we are so grateful and thankful for the generosity of our friends.

And this year we actually have abundance to share as well -- composted manure, soap, garlic, seeds, goat cheese, eggs.

Our barns are full to overflowing and we didn't lose a lamb or kid to predators all grazing season.

And especially, we are thankful for family -- a new daughter in law, 3 families where only one existed a few years ago -- as our sons have found their loving companions. For a brother at VGH, who is alive and in good hands as he recovers from his neck injury. God's kind providence at work in our lives.

And I am thankful for the pair of bluebirds and the swallows that are still over the pastures at Joybilee Farm.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dew Retting Flax

Some of my readers have asked for directions on dew retting flax. I asked Randy Cowan of Biolin Research and Crop Fibers Canada in Saskatchewan if he would write a short article for us on the procedure. Thanks, Randy, for taking the time to inform us of some of the ins and outs of dew retting flax.

Here's what Randy said:

"When harvesting flax straw for fiber production, the flax straw is pulled out of the
ground, including the roots, and laid on the ground in a thin even layer with the stems
aligned. Consistent stem diameter and a thin layer will ensure even retting. When the
stems are retted on one side the straw must be turned over to ret on the other side.
After a heavy rain turn the flax to ensure an even ret and to stop rotting on the ground

Dew retting is simple exposure of the straw to the weather for 2–3 weeks, depending
on weather; it may take up to 8 weeks, until the dew and rains have removed the
waxes and resins making the fiber loose from the stalk. In the dew retting process,
the pectins and lignins are dissolved by the interaction of molds, warm air and
moisture. The stems will turn a silvery grey color when retting is completed. Dew
retting is unpredictable because it is dependent on the rains or dew in the fall. If it is a
dry fall, sprinkle the flax every few days with water (avoid treated water, and/or tap
water, as chlorine will hinder microbial growth on the stems).

To tell if the stems are retted dry a few stems. Grab the straw and break a section,
retting is complete if the fiber does not stick to the woody core.
Once the straw has been fully retted, dry the stems before decorticating."

It is possible to over rett the flax. Over retted flax has weak fiber that breaks when breaking and hackling. Properly retted flax stems will break easily when dry, but the linen fibers within them will remain intact. Experience will help you get it just right. If its not retted long enough it will be very difficult to break with your flax break and the fibers will remain in their bundles within the sheath, without separating into individual fibers.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Peace Banner Presentation

Today was a special day. The Boundary Spinner and Weaver Guild and I, presented the Peace Banner to the Grand Forks Art Gallery to be part of their permanent collection.

This is The International Year of Natural Fiber as well as International Spinning and Weaving week, and the perfect occasion for presenting this peace banner to the Art Gallery for their permanent Collection. “The crafts of spinning, weaving, dyeing, and basketweaving are as ancient
as our history. They are the threads that bind us to our ancestors and to each other. Our
crafts know no national boundary. They are a part of the heritage of the world.”

First some back ground on the Peace Banner. It was conceived by the guild as an
expression of the yearning for peace and a permanent legacy to honor the International
Year of Natural Fiber.

Our Peace Banner draws on the genre of the handwoven rag rug – a tradition in many
cultures that have made Canada their homeland. In its essence it uses rags – strips of
used, recycled fabric and clothing and remakes it into something beautiful and useful
once again. The strips were woven as a tapestry, meant to hang on the wall. The final
banner is 32 inches wide by 34 feet long. The Peace Banner is designed to hang

It was a cooperative art venture and drew on the cooperation of many.

The floor loom for the weaving was donated for the project, by Joybilee Farm and it had
a place of honor for 7 months in the Grand Forks Heritage Centre, inviting visitors from all over the world to weave a rag strip or two, in cooperation with many others, to create a work of
art, and a tapestry of peace. It was a meaningful experience for many, as they shared in
the work of creating the Peace Banner.

We appreciate Sue Adrian’s cooperation in the facilitating of the project. Sue and her
volunteers opened the Heritage Centre on Sundays to allow Sunday School classes access
to the loom and encouraged school classes to add their own creativity to the project.

Many visitors from around the world: Holland, England, Wales, Belgium, Germany,
Japan, Korea, Mexico, Ecuador, Australia, New Zealand and all parts of Canada and the
USA, participated in the weaving. This project was mentioned in “The Bulletin”, the
periodical of the Guild of Canadian Weavers, as well as “The Island Shuttle”, a
newsletter out of Victoria. As well as the Grand Forks Gazette, The Weekender, and
several online blogs.

The rag strips were donated by the Boundary Spinner and Weaver Guild, CABA’s
Quilting, and Heart and Sole Quilts, as well as several individuals. Guild members,
Mary, Ailsa and Ramona prepared the rag strips and ensured the rag basket was kept full
for the 7 month duration of the project.

Dressing the loom was a cooperative effort with the participation of all guild members and culminated on March 15th with the opening of the Guild’s Gallery Show, “Our Daily Thread”.

The public was invited to weave. People were free to weave their creativity into the
Peace Banner, since it is through individual actions that a lasting peace can be achieved.
You will see many different colours and techniques from single strips, to braided strips to
giordes knots in the banner. Many people wrote proverbs, quotes, or prayers on the strips
before weaving them into the tapestry.

There was a log book beside the loom for participants to write their thoughts while they
wove. Some of the thoughts related to the experience of weaving for the first time.
Others were related to hopes for peace. Many simply recorded their name and where
they were from. There were entries from all over the world, from seniors, middle age,
young adults and children. Entire families shared the creative experience as well as
school classes and friends.

Some of the comments:
"As each weft is woven into the loom we will create a tapestry of peace, just as individual
actions of justice and mercy build together a culture of peace and life"

“we are the makers of peace - look inside your own heart!"

"Woven with love and a promise of peace"

"peace in the name of our Lord Jesus"

“I never knew weaving could be so fun”

And from some of our younger artists:

"the rug is cool"

"luv pulling the beater"

The Peace Banner was on display for the first time on International Peace Day at the
Boundary Peace Initiative ceremony. We hope its display will inspire others to work in
cooperation and creativity, to create art, to weave peace into the fabric of their lives.

We dropped the banner from the railing on the second floor of the Grand Forks Art Gallery today, as part of the presentation. It was astounding how beautiful the banner was and what a meaningful experience it was to share in the weaving.

It will soon be on display at the Grand Forks Art Gallery, and other venues are waiting in line for their turn to display it.

"Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God."

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

French Angora Rabbits

We have two angora rabbit litters ready to go to new homes this month.

Born July 23rd to Huckleberry (fawn) and Topaz (Lilac Torte), this 10 week old litter includes Lilac Tortes (1 female, 2 males) and REW (male and female). The REWs (albinos) will be carrying lilac, black, and agouti genes. Litter size 6.

Born August 21st (6 weeks old) to Hematite (black) and Ruby (REW), this litter has REW (2 males, 1 female), a chocolate torte female, a blue male and 2 broken females (blue and chocolate torte). The two broken females will be staying at Joybilee Farm. Litter size 8 babies (10 were born).
The REWs in this litter may be carrying the broken gene, chocolate and black and blue genetics.

See my blog for more information on Angora Rabbit genetics.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Shearing Mohair

Angora goats grow 1 inch of lustrous, mohair fiber each month. They need to be sheared twice a year -- Spring and Fall. Ian, our second son, and his lovely bride, Miranda, arrived on Saturday afternoon to shear our angora goats. It was less than an hour after the clean up from the workshop. They were set up and shearing within 20 minutes and 13 goats had their haircut before dark.

On Sunday we got the last of the 47 angoras sheared. We worked as an efficient tag team. I stayed in the house making meals -- shearing is a hungry job and 3 meals plus snacks are required by the shearing team.

Miranda got the goats and posed them for the picture to be taken. Sarah swept the shearing board between animals, labeled the bags to receive the fleeces and gathered the fleece, as well as oiling the shearing machine when it got hot. Ian sheared the goat and then passed it to Robin for hoof trimming, vitamin shots (selenium and vitamin E, of which we are deficient) and Robin also took the pictures. Miranda returned the goat to the barn and retrieved the next one for the shearing.

We now have each fleece bagged, labeled and weighed. Wow! They'll be up on the website in the next week or so, check back.

The angora fleeces are lovely. No matted adult fleeces this year. Few parasites. And not too much vm, since they were on pasture all summer until just two weeks ago. The coloured angora is soft, long, flowing and shiny. Perfect for doll's hair. Perfect for spinning into novelty yarns. In fact, perfect for running your fingers through and dreaming of the possibilities.

We didn't get to shear the lambs. With the rain last week we had to choose who to keep locked in the barn and dry -- there wasn't room for all 104 animals to be content for two days in the barn. So the sheep and lambs were allowed to go to pasture in the daytime and just put in the barns (there's two barns) to sleep. Yesterday was sunny and clear so the sheep are dry now, but Ian and Miranda left today to shear in Slocan Valley. They'll be back in a month, but for now they are off to New Brunswick for Miranda's grandfather's birthday.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Natural Indigo Dye Workshop with the Quilter's Guild

Yesterday 17 ladies from the Sunshine Quilter's Guild in Grand Forks converged on Joybilee Farm for an Indigo Dye Workshop. The ladies each dyed either 4 cotton fat Quarters or 2 fat quarters and 1 silk scarf. It was a blast.

Although there was a light sprinkling of snow before the workshop, the weather was cool but dry for the entire 3 hour workshop. We had a propane heater going to warm our hands and the studio was utilized for warmth. For the most part everyone was too excited with their shibori creations to worry about a little cool weather.

We used 12 indigo stock solution jars and 4 large indigo vats to keep everyone going. Each person folded, clamped or tied their fat quarters and we rotated 8 projects through each vat -- 10 minutes in and 10 minutes oxidizing. We got through all the projects in the 3 hour time period. We used up 360 grams of natural indigo, 160 grams of thioureadioxide, and 160 grams of soda ash. And we dyed 50 fat quarters and 9 silk scarves during the workshop, plus 1 kg. of mohair yarn and 1 lb. of mohair locks, after everyone left.

Everyone learned some botany, history and culture of natural indigo, and had a browse through the indigo and shibori books in the Joybilee Farm library.

We finished in time to clean up, have lunch and get ready for shearing. Ian and Miranda, his lovely wife, arrived at 3pm to begin shearing the angora goats and got 13 done before dark. Yep, it was a busy day.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Indigo Dye Workshop

I'm getting ready for another Indigo Dye Workshop tomorrow. 19 quilters are coming to learn to dye with natural indigo, from the Sunshine Quilters Guild in Grand Forks, B.C. Each quilter will dye 2 to 4 fat quarters (quilters talk for a 22 x 18 rectangle of cotton) and some will also dye a 2o x 60 silk scarf. I will set up two tables with resist implements -- elastic bands, clothes pegs, buttons, nails, thread, twine, and PVC pipe. Each person will fold or tie their cloth and then immerse 4 to 6 times in the natural indigo vat.

It is delightfully fun as each square of cotton or silk scarf comes out differently. I will need to make up 4 dye vats and have several bottles of prepared indigo ready to replenish the vats. We'll have 4 work stations set up so there will be room for everyone.

We'll be doing the workshop in the outdoor dye kitchen, to keep the aromatic fumes out of the house. And its supposed to snow so we'll have chairs and tables indoors for comfort.

Then Saturday and Sunday we are shearing the angora goats. Its raining today and they are dry in the barns -- 50 goats in all -- 15 of them coloured angoras. I am so looking forward to fondling our coloured mohair this year. Some of our yearling fleece is amazing. I hope I'll be able to take pictures before the hair cut happens. The sheep will miss their hair cut because our barn wasn't big enough to keep both sheep and goats dry, indoors and in comfort for 3 days. But maybe we'll get to them later.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

WWOOFers Learn to Spin and Weave

So far this year we've had 6 WWOOFers come to help us at Joybilee Farm. All but one of them learned to spin their own yarn from our wool -- first on a drop spindle and then on the wheel. All of them went from lumpy, bumpy singles to beautifully consistent yarn in 2 or 3 days. And then on to ply their yarn on the wheel. Some stayed long enough to learn to dye with natural dyes and Michelle, from Red Deer, left on Sunday, having woven her new yarn into a scarf, on an Ashford Knitters Loom (a rigid heddle loom).

I am so proud of our WWOOFers and their accomplishments. Not only did they help us immensely with our workload as we get ready for winter, but they also took away from Joybilee Farm a new skill or two, that will give them much pleasure throughout their lives.

Not all our WWOOFers were interested in learning to spin at first, but after watching us spin for a few days, the urge to learn becomes iresistable. Right, Kati?

Ideally, to go from not spinning to spinning, natural dyeing and weaving or knitting a finished project takes about 2 weeks, working on their new skills in their spare time at the farm. Those who stayed for a shorter period of time, or spent their off hours sleeping or surfing, only got part way on the journey -- completing their 2 ply skein of yarn. But I have confidence that they will be able to go further on their own.

Jessica came to us from New Brunswick. Her ambition was to go from sheep to yarn and someday to have her own handspinner's flock. Jessica learned to skirt a fleece, wash a fleece and spin her own yarn for knitting. Her help with weeding the vegetable garden and the willow beds was an immense help to us in May, allowing us to have a successful garden this year. Thank you Jessica for your help and for the things you taught us -- including helping Sarah understand what happens chemically during an indigo reduction vat.

Kati came fresh from completing a degree at Emily Carr School of Arts -- an award winning fiber artist in her own right and currently living in Mexico. She dyed with natural indigo and learned to spin her own yarn. She helped with the weeding of the willow beds and then the weeding of the linen field. Thanks Kati. We had a successful linen harvest in August thanks to your diligent weeding in June.

Ruth came to us from Israel and is a professional chef. She helped us get ready for the linen festival and was an immense help in organizing the house. (Ruth, the wood cook stove is in now!) Ruth learned to spin and took away a 2 ply skein of yarn. Unfortunately, we didn't get to knitting, but Ruth has enough skills to continue with her fiber arts journey on her own. Ruth taught us how to make chapatis and enriched our lives with her stories about life in the Middle East.

Helen came to us from Grand Forks. A retired teacher, she was an immense help in canning our tomato sauce and filling the dehydrator and freezer with fruit for the winter. Helen was our only WWOOFer who didn't learn to spin, but she helped with the golden rod harvest for natural dyeing. Thanks, Helen.

Beth came to us from San Diego. I didn't get a picture of Beth's spinning. She came just as we were coping with Robin's brother's accident and in our grief, it was difficult to connect with Beth. She helped us clean up the goat yard of branches from a winter of feeding spruce and pine boughs to the animals. Wow, does it look better now. Thanks, Beth. Beth learned to spin and 2 ply her yarn just before she left. Since Beth spent most of her afternoons in town surfing the internet, we didn't get to teach her as much fiberarts skills as we would have liked. But she still took away her own yarn.

Michelle came to us from Red Deer. She came in time to help us at the Rock Creek Fair. What a big help she was in bringing in wood for the winter, cleaning up the felled trees, and gathering herbs for the winter. Thanks, Michelle. Michelle learned to spin, dye with golden rod, and while she was here she dreamed that she was weaving. So Michelle used her newly spun and dyed yarn to weave a scarf on the Ashford knitters loom. What a gorgeous scarf!

To our WWOOFers: We are grateful for all that you taught us this summer and for all the help you gave us at Joybilee Farm. Our lives are richer for the time you spent with us.

Joybilee Farm accepts WWOOFers year round and we have recently acquired a larger trailer to house those WWOOFers who wish to spend a week or two at the farm and learn to care for fiber animals, and to process their wool/mohair/angora into yarn or completed textiles.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Silk from Spiders

I have heard rumours of people gathering spider silk and spinning it into yarn. Here's a group that produced just such a textile today. Wow! The golden colour is the natural colour of the silk. The brocade weaving is 11 feet long by 4 feet wide and is made from the silk of 1 million spiders.

These spiders bite. And they are huge! Each spider donated 80 feet of silk to the textile, which is on display at the Museum of Natural History in NYC.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Genetically Engineered Crops and Flax

iI received some links from Brian John of UK's GM Free Cymru regarding the GE Flax fiasco happening right now in the Canadian Flax industry.

In 2000 the GE Flax "CDC Triffid" was pulled off the registration list and banned from being grown in Canada. Apparently Alan McHughen developed this flax at the U. of Saskatchewan as an oil seed crop for industrial and plastic production -- not as a food crop. Flax was thought to be impervious to x pollination. However, apparently there is significant insect pollination of the flax crop which can lead to spread of the GE gene in non GE flax crops.

The flax farmers of Saskatchewan, concerned that their European markets would be compromised, lobbied the Canadian government in 2000 to ban GE Flax from being grown in Canada. GE Flax has not been approved for growing commercially in Canada. Now the inevitable has happened. GE flax has contaminated the Canadian flax crop. Europe has closed its doors. The contaminated "Triffid" flax was found in bakery goods in Germany. The flax arrived in Germany via Belgium.

Like the Evolution vs. Creation debate that was highlighted in the recent film, "Expelled, no intelligence allowed", so the GE vs. non GE food debate goes. Scientists that are opposed to GE food crops based on their research into the harmful effects of GE food, are discredited in peer reviewed journals while those scientists in the pay of Monsanto or with a conflict of interest are upheld.

Science has lost its credibility through corruption. It is no longer the trusted authority of reason and inquiry. Truth is ignored for the sake of convenience or financial gain. The scientific method is useful only as an exercise for science fair competitions. It is no longer used in real adult science--where research funding is more important than truth.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gather ye rose hips while ye may: Homestead Herbal

Fall is rosehip season. We gather the rosehips from the abundant wild rose plants that are scattered around our 140 acres. Then we dry them for winter tea. They taste citrus-y like lemons and add vitamin C to our diets -- a good antioxidant and useful for cold or flu symptoms.

A recent case of Swine Flu in New Zealand was treated successfully with IV vitamin C, after all other therapies had failed. Vitamin C works by combating free-radical damage caused by oxidization of our cells -- adding fresh electrons to our body system for cell regeneration.

Rosehips contain tannins, vitamin C, pectin, caratene, fruit acids and fatty oils. A syrup can be made from the fresh hips after the blossom end and seeds are removed from the fruit. Add honey to a strong decoction made with fresh hips. Keep refrigerated.

We prefer to make a rosehip tea and sweeten the tea with honey when ever needed, at the first sign of cold or flu symptoms.

To dry rosehips, remove the blossom end from fresh hips and put on the lowest shelf of a dehydrator when you are drying other fruits. Stir once a day until very dry and hard. Store in a glass jar away from light. Crush hips in a mortar and fill a tea ball to make a strong decoction.

To treat cold or flu symptoms add peppermint leaves, juniper berries, wild strawberry leaves, golden rod leaves, oregano, or willow bark.

Other plants that are rich vitimin C -- spruce or pine needles -- gather from the wild as needed year round.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chimney repairs

The wood stove/chimney inspector was at Joybilee Farm today to inspect the wood stove -- both the new cook stove that we newly put in and the other heater stove in the studio. The good news was that the new stove passed with flying colours. The bad news was that the chimney for the heater stove in the studio has a crack in the masonry.

I'm so glad that the inspector caught it. What if we had a chimney fire? Possibly we did and that's what cracked the chimney. We don't know. So the heater stove is out of commission for a while and the inspector is coming back in a week or so to repair the chimney and pass its inspection.

Good, too, that it is fall and we don't need the heater yet.

So Robin was on the roof tonight hitting chimney bricks with a sledge hammer and tossing the broken brick pieces over the peak of the roof onto the ground below. They landed with a huge thud, while I cringed. Michelle, the WWOOFer helped immensely, by running clean up for the demolition.

Tonight Michelle is going to graduate to the spinning wheel. She spun her first yarn last night on a CD spindle. The goal is a two ply yarn by Friday night.

Rearranging the Studio

We got home from the Rock Creek Fair on Sunday night completely exhausted. The fair was good. In spite of a lower attendance, we sold more than ever before.

The people were very excited about linen and flax. Many of the Fair visitors remembered seeing their mothers and grandmothers growing flax and processing it into linen during "the war" in Germany, and other parts of Europe. Most people didn't know that linen came from the flax plant. Even as I was breaking it and combing it, people asked me what kind of animal gave that hair. One man was so excited that he wanted to see every step, even the spinning. He wanted to know how strong it was so I spun his piece of line linen into a yard or two of singles yarn and then asked him to break it off my previous thread. He couldn't. Then he got more excited. It was wonderful to see the growing appreciation for linen in the audience.

I had an audience of about 45 people on Saturday and more than that on Sunday. People hung around after the talk to break some flax and take home their linen fibers. I think we could have sold a couple of flax breaks if we had them to sell. The only drawback was that the handle broke off of the flax break. So a repair is needed before we use it again.

I have a handspun, handwoven table cloth of singles linen that I've washed numerous times. I displayed it unironed, but it doesn't have noticeable wrinkles. It is so soft now, it feels like velvet.
I gave away a few boxes of information about flax and linen that Randy Cowan left here after the linen festival. All the cookbooks went on Saturday. And we sold one package of Hermes Fiberflax seed.

Monday we started unpacking boxes to put the studio back together, but got interrupted by a trip to town to clean the church.

We took on cleaning the church this Fall. 10 hours a week with 3 of us working together, with the goal of being able to afford Sarah's music lessons for the year. It will take two afternoons each week of running into town -- Mondays and then an hour on Thursday or Friday to tidy up before the Sunday Service.

We resumed setting the studio back up yesterday. I thought we'd be ready to be open by 10am, but I was wrong. At 5pm Michelle, our current WWOOFer, and Robin were still putting out product on the shelves. The studio looks better, more open and organized a bit differently.

There is now room in the studio to bring home the floor loom from the Grand Forks Heritage Gallery. Its been on loan to them with the Peace Banner. But the loom is now empty and ready to return home. I have a blanket warp of Shepherd's Pride Yarn in natural grey, white and woad blue ready to go on it when things calm down around here.

The Peace Banner was finished last Thursday by Ramona and Mary and then taken off the loom. There are some finishing touches to make it ready for hanging and then next week it will be presented to the Art Gallery as part of their permanent collection. I'll take pictures once its finished.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Aware Knits hits the stand with Joybilee Farm Yarn

Aware Knits by Vickie Howell and Adrienne Armstrong (2009, Lark Books)has just been released.

The book features eco-friendly yarns and ethical fibers in all its patterns.

Joybilee Farm is honored to have one of our naturally dyed yarns featured in this book.Joybilee Farm's "Kick-A-Dee Sock Yarn" is one of the featured yarns with a boot sock pattern in cochineal pink and walnut brown, naturally dyed yarn. This yarn is custom mill spun, semiworsted for strength, from Joybilee Farm's yearling mohair, Joybilee Farm's soft merino crossbred lamb and tussah silk. Then its hand dyed with eco-friendly natural dyes using only an alum mordant. Its a gorgeously soft yarn, spun with extra twist and with just enough strength for socks. Knit the sock bottoms tightly, with a smaller needle to ensure good durability.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Rock Creek Fair

We are attending the Rock Creek Fair this weekend. Its our favorite weekend of the year. The Joybilee Farm booth is across from the Livestock barns. Our bottle babies get to come with us and engage the public. Kiwi will be going. He will be in lamb heaven with all the kids coming to pet him.

Our studio at the farm will be moved for the weekend to the fair. Sarah and I will stay in the trailer on the fair grounds. Robin, and our new WWOOFer, Michelle will keep the farm going, while we're gone.

I'll be demoing linen this year -- talking about flax, handing out pamphlets, inviting the public to break some retted flax, spinning and weaving flax. I didn't get all my fair entries done this year. I feel bad about that. Next year, maybe.

See you at the fair.

Genetically Engineered Crops and Homesteading

Last evening, Robin and I attended a lecture by Percy Schmeiser, the Saskatchewan farmer who was taken to court by Monsanto for the contamination of his Canola crop by GE genes. He talked about the imminent danger of sustainable and organic agriculture by contamination with GE genes.

According to patent law, the patent holder -- in this case Monsanto -- owns everything with its genetically modified gene in it. This would include other species of plants, and animals, plus their products, that have been contaminated with the GE gene.

What surprised me was that GE Canola, can cross pollinate into other varieties of plants within the brassica family, such as mustard, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, even into organically grown crops. In fact the cross contamination is so probable that European scientists deem that there can be no certified organic seed grown in North America that is not already contaminated with Genetically Altered genes.

The solution for organic farmers in North America seems to be a change in the tolerance level for GE seed, rather than the official designation of GE - free zones which could then be seed growing areas. I find this alarming.

Another surprising fact was the research that shows that the GE gene continues in the muscle tissue of animals that ingest the GE plants, grains or seeds. That milk from animals fed GE corn and soybeans is contaminated with the GE gene. That meat from animals fed GE corn and soybeans is also contaminated. That eggs from poultry fed GE grains is also contaminated. The logical extension is that if I eat eggs, milk, meat or vegetables contaminated with GE genes my own body also becomes contaminated with the GE genes.

But the danger is more imminent. In canola the GE gene is two fold -- a bacteria that is used as an antibiotic is the gene that is inserted into the plant's germ plasm, and the vector used is a cauliflower mosaic virus, a known mammalian toxin. Rural residents living on the prairies, who breath in the antibiotic laden pollen from GE Canola, have developed antibiotic resistant infections -- superbugs. The Canadian prairies are windy and pollen travels a great distance. Think of the implications.

While the media sells us the imminent, fictional dangers of the pandemic swine flu, they are silent to the real impending dangers of antibiotic resistant infections breeding in our plants due to GE. Wow, I had no idea that genetically engineered crops were so dangerous environmentally, socially and in terms of human health.

What about livestock health? Well, it appears that what isn't fit for human consumption is fed to our chickens, sheep, cattle and goats. The farmer isn't even told the extent of GE contamination that is in a bag of feed. No wonder BSE, Johnnes, and other autoimmune diseases are rampant in the livestock in North America.

At Joybilee Farm we feed a diet of whole wheat and whole oats, mixed, along with loose minerals, kelp meal and free choice grass and hay. To our knowledge there is no GE contamination in the food that is given to our livestock. But since no labeling of GE food is required in Canada, we can't really be sure.

Percy said that 80% of all food in the grocery store is GE food. If it contains milk ingredients (whey, milk, milk solids, lactic acid, lactose), canola, cotton (fiber, seed meal, seed oil)(MacDonald's french fries are fried in a combination of cottonseed oil and tallow), or corn products (starch, oil, meal, or syrup)(Most soft drinks,cookies, desserts, and candies contain corn syrup) then it is in all probability contaminated with GE genes. Growing all ones own food and ensuring, as far as possible, that the sources are nonGE may be the only way to avoid GE foods in Canada.

Even buying certified organic products are no longer a guarantee that you are avoiding GE foods. Organic has to do with the way a plant is grown and not the genetic information in the seed stocks used. Check out the tortilla chips that you make your nachos from. If it says "organically grown corn" instead of "certified organic corn" you are consuming GE corn when you eat them. In all probability there is no GEfree corn left in North America, including Mexico, where the indigenous diet is maize based.

Its a crime against the people of Canada, the US and Mexico, that Monsanto has been allowed to do this with the support of the courts. There is no law that protects the people of Canada from the dangers of GE food. Labeling is not even required. And farmers found to be growing a GE crop, (where the GE crop has contaminated their nonGE fields) have been forced to pay extortion fees to Monsanto, to avoid expensive court battles that could jeopardize their livelihoods. Monsanto is protected by patent law while their victims are forced to pay.

Further, plants have been genetically altered to produce drugs -- contraceptives, blood thinners, blood coagulants, and heart medications are all now being grown in the fields. Its cheaper to grow it than to produce it synthetically in the lab. Contamination of our vegetable crops by cross pollination is a real danger. Will that broccoli on the table cause a pregnant woman to miscarry or a recent surgery recipient to hemorrhage?

The most likely crops to be genetically engineered are maize, canola, soybeans, and cotton and milk (in the US). However, pineapples, papayas, kiwis, bananas, flax, and a GE wheat has been developed and is awaiting approval.

Should GE wheat be released into the environment it would be the end of all grass farming. GE wheat would contaminate not just wheat but oats, barley, spelt and even rice and wild grasses in North America. A very scary probability. I will be writing my MP to ask him to help pass legislation that will prohibit the growing of GE wheat in Canada.

Last week, GE flax was inadvertently found in a shipment of Canadian flax seed destined for the EU. GE flax has not been approved to be grown in Canada since 2001. How did the GE flax get into a shipment for export? Canada is the world's largest exporter of flax seed, with 70% of the Canadian crop destined for Europe. This has terrible financial repercussions to the flax industry. The shipment was rejected and Canadian flax has been banned from the EU. The price per bushel dropped $4 last week -- just as the harvest is being brought in.

Flax is self pollinating, 98% of the seed is fertilized before the flower opens, making cross pollination unlikely. But contamination can happen when the crop is combined, or at the place where the seed is stored. But it remains that the GE flax has not been approved for planting in Canada, so we wonder how it got there? A professor at the university of Saskatchewan, Alan McHughen, was working under contract to Monsanto to develop GE flax. He gave the seed, without authorization, to some students and asked them to have their parents plant the new variety of flax seed, without releasing the information that it was a GE crop. Although the seed was recalled, not all of it was returned. Once a GE seed is released into the environment it is impossible to contain it. Seed is a living entity.

Health Canada recently approved Monsanto's eight-trait GE 'SmartStax' corn without any health safety assessment. The danger is imminent to the environment, the future of seed safety, and our food sovereignty. It may already be too late.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Dangers of a Comfortable Life

It is easy, when pursuing a life of simplicity on the homestead, to pursue a comfortable life. We become complacent in the many jars of food put by for the winter, and the hay and wood stacked securely against the coming cold months. There seems to be a rush to beat the cold in these annual chores but the ultimate goal is comfort. However, we are called to greater pursuits than mere comfort and herein lies the danger.

Pursuit of personal comfort leads to sleepiness of spirit. We become immune to the needs of others. We become complacent to the cries of the broken or the needs of the poor. As homesteaders, we work so hard for what we have – we are more poor, or more broken than they. “Let someone else with greater resources meet the need”, we say. We fail to hear the voice of the Holy One prompting our charity or pushing us to a more challenging walk. We miss untold blessings as we lie down, like Christian, in Pilgrim’s Progress, at the resting place, and instead of mere resting, we sleep.

A second danger of pursuing the goal of personal comfort is a personal and spiritual blindness. We cannot see our own goal as a pursuit of personal comfort. Instead, we think we are living a simple life for the sake of the environment, or to create an ethical, eco-friendly livelihood or to serve our fellowman. When in reality, our every day decisions are based on what would give me the most comfort today. Thus we are willing to meet the needs of others when their needs make us uncomfortable. And I am willing to work hard for a few hours to put wood or food by for the coming discomfort of winter. But when this discomfort is abated I will change my effort of work, even if it makes those around me uncomfortable, all the while believing my true motivation is altruistic and not selfish. And in this blindness, we are satisfied and fail to pursue a greater purpose beyond the daily discomfort. We don’t set long term goals. We don’t act on principles. We don’t even mind increasing the discomfort of others to ensure our own comfort.

A third danger in pursuing the goal of personal comfort is mediocrity. It takes self discipline to practice a new skill every day until it is perfected and becomes “natural”. It is uncomfortable at first – even frustrating – as new neuropathways are forged in our brains and a body memory is gained, making the skill easy. Those who devote time, practice and patience to pursuing excellence will not be satisfied with a life devoted to personal comfort. The two are mutually exclusive. To become excellent at any skill we must first become uncomfortable.

God has called us to a higher standard than a comfortable life. As an artist, excellence is my standard and to pursue excellence I must first make many uncomfortable mistakes – in short – I must practice excellence. As a homesteader, my goal is to live in a way that God is glorified in the every day stacking of the wood against winter, in the treatment and care of my livestock, in the beauty and comfort of my home and in the pursuit of justice, mercy, piety, and excellence.

Is there room for personal comfort in this? Yes, but not as a goal, rather as a byproduct, all the while acknowledging that discomfort is part of growth and the way to maturity. We are called to live dangerously, self sacrificing lives, to promote justice, mercy and worship of the Most High God – in short, to glorify God and to love him forever. In fact, the mark of God’s grace in our lives is discomfort that sends us to our knees in prayer and leads us in the pursuit of knowing Him in a deeper way. Growing in knowing God is a goal worthy of the cost of discomfort.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Homestead Skills: Making Hard Cheese

Now that the garden has been blasted with frost, I have time to make cheese. Our pure bred Saanan milk goats give us two gallons of milk every morning. We milk only in the mornings and let the Saanans feed their babies (plus any other goats that find the udder) during the day. We are milking 4 goats. I make cheese 3 times a week, on alternate days. 2 gallons (8 litres) of milk makes about 1 lb. (500 to 700 grams) of hard cheese. We go through a lb. of cheese each week so that leaves two lbs. each week, for putting by for the winter.

Robin made a cheese press so that I could create hard cheeses like cheddar, brick, and Monterrey jack cheese. Here's what it looks like:

The container is a plastic food safe jar, top cut off, that I punched with a heated knitting needle to create drainage holes. I line it with a curity gauze diaper (purchased just for cheese making). Place the drained curds in and press with an oak follower, turned by Robin on his lathe, from recycled pallet wood. The stand is a piece of plywood, sized to fit into a kitchen sink. The holders are a recycled broom handle.

The weights are created from new, clean, building bricks. Each brick weighs 5lbs. and 4 are needed to press a hard cheese.

My cheese recipe book is The Cheesemaker's Manual by Margaret P. Morris
This manual combines both the scientific and practical aspects of small scale cheesemaking. For both the home and on-farm cheesemaker!
Over 50 different recipes for fresh, soft, hard and washed rind cheeses. I like the fact that it does present scientific explanations and not just recipes. That makes it possible to do your own trouble shooting.

Another book I use is Mary Toth's, "Goats Produce, Too" which has recipes and is much more basic, but a good starting point.

Both are available from Glengarry Cheesemaking Supplies in Ontario. Glengarry is also where I get my rennet, and cheese cultures from. When kept refrigerated a supply of rennet and cheese culture lasts for two to three years.

Here's the curd in the mold ready for pressing:

Here's the cheese follower over the curds ready for pressing:

Here's the cheese press assembled in the kitchen sink, with the curds beginning to drain.

Here's the press with 10 lbs. pressure on the cheese. We put 10 lbs. pressure for the first 30 minutes of pressing. Then turn the cheese over and put 20 lbs. pressure for another 30 minutes. Turn the cheese over again and redress it in a fresh pressing cloth, then apply 20 lbs. pressure for 2 hours. Then finally turn the cheese again and press it at 20 lbs. pressure for a final 12 hours or overnight.

Remove cheese and brine in a saturated salt solultion (1/2 lb. of kosher or pickling salt to 1 litre of water.) Leave the cheese in the brine solution for 6 to 8 hours. Remove. Drain and Dry. Now its ready for waxing and aging for 2 to 6 weeks, up to 3 months before eating.