Monday, August 24, 2015

book giveaway and random beans

Just a quick note to announce
the winner of the crockpot cookbook giveaway, as promised:

Congratulations to Magpie's Mumblings!

Drop me an email with your mailing address,
and your book will soon be on its way.
I hope you will enjoy it,
and find some new favorite crockpot recipes.

Thanks to everyone who left a comment and a cooking tip!
One of my favorite things about blogging is
the way ideas are shared.

And now I'm falling asleep,
but it just doesn't feel right to put up a post without
at least one image, so...

here are some #drawingAugust beans:

Good night :)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

a fair day

Yesterday I visited the annual Hardwick Community Fair:
"The Oldest Fair in the United States"
est. 1762

For readers in some other parts of the world -
for readers in most other parts of the world! -
253 years is hardly ancient history.
But for the US, it's fairly old.
(See what I did there? Heh.)

And even in that long/short 253-year history,
the fair has not been held continuously.
Since 1762 - when, by the way, the residents of Massachusetts
still answered to the King of England - 
the Hardwick Fair has vanished several times.

Some interludes began with a major event.

The Revolutionary war...the Civil War...

but afterward, the gap sometimes stretched on for decades.

The fact that townspeople have stepped up
and reactivated the Fair,
over and over again,
is special, I think.

Physically, it's a small fair, held on the Town Common.
There are organized activities for children,
booths for local vendors, and traditional skills demonstrations.
Across the road, there's a long tent for dairy cattle.

I'm so happy there are still dairy cattle to be shown here.
In the past 30 years or so, this region has lost dairies
the same way it has lost small lumbermills:
in big, sad numbers.

People from many nearby towns enter the competitions.
Crosscut sawing. Sack races. Cakes and pies. Fun things.

Lots of beautiful produce: fruits, vegetables, eggs, herbs.

Food and flower displays in the Town Hall.

Sewing, knitting and other handcrafts in the church hall.

 And by some miracle, after a series of rainy days
that left the ground feeling like a squelchy sponge,
the sun shone yesterday
but the air was not terribly humid!
It was hot, but still refreshing.

Back to normal today, though - air like wet gauze.

And poor little Fern had a bellyache today.
I sat on a chaise in the barn and kept an eye on her
while picking out photographs for this post.
Very happy to report that I just came in from evening chores,
and though she is still a bit quiet,
Fern is definitely feeling better.
Thank goodness.
Now the new week can get off to a good start.
I hope it will be a great week for all of us :)

Just a reminder: 
I'll draw the winner of the crockpot cookbook giveaway
tomorrow at noon ET.
Still time to enter!
Good luck  :)

Monday, August 17, 2015

notes from my studio

Still #drawingaugust!

Past the midpoint of the month now, and I have 15 drawings posted. I'm enjoying it very much, as there is no pressure or criticism, but enough of a community feeling from the many folks participating on twitter that it always feels good to "join in" and post a daily sketch. Without that incentive, I probably would have fallen by the wayside long before now. It's been a challenge physically as much as "artily."

Some days, I stay home and draw in my recliner, temporarily dubbed "My Studio." This ink sketch of Joe Pye Weed was drawn from a photograph taken while sketching in the woods the day before:

On days when Piper and I can go out, I wear a little backpack with sketching kit, water bottle, dog treats (of course), and bug spray, and carry a folded-up foam cushion under my arm. I don't walk far, but seek out a rock - or, more often, a large tree - at an angle that will support my spine in a leaning-back position while I plant my pelvis on the cushion. Sometimes I even find a place where I can wedge myself between a large tree for my back and a smaller tree in front that I can prop a foot against so I am being held in position with the least amount of physical effort. It's not exactly the "zero-gravity" position I absolutely rely on throughout the day at home, but for allowing me to concentrate on a ten- or fifteen-minute sketch, it is a gift and I am grateful.

A couple of times I've managed to stretch it out to 20 minutes, which is a heck of a long time for me to be in any one position without increased pain. This ink drawing made by the side of a tiny stream was one of those efforts. I reached a point where I was struggling with the drawing, and finally realized I was having trouble with the drawing because I was trying to ignore the pain.

So I closed the sketchbook and pulled myself up - another thing the trees help with - but was too achy and unbalanced to walk right away. So I played "look at me, not at the treat" with Piper (who had already enjoyed being a Wild Dog and was covered from belly to feet in muck), and then, because I couldn't yet lean down to pack up my "sketching kit," I tried an experiment: a very quick sketch while standing. I intended it as visual note-taking, to be looked at back home and perhaps turned into something with color.

And here is the result. On the left, the 3-minute standing sketch with color notes. On the right, the result of an evening session in the recliner, with a handful of watercolor pencils, q-tips (in lieu of a brush), and a pill bottle full of water.



Crazy fun!
Something Ms. Piper knows a lot about.

I hope your week brings you some crazy fun :)

Friday, August 14, 2015

summer cooking and a giveaway

In this hot, muggy weather, I have to make an effort to have good food on hand, ready to eat in almost no time. Otherwise, I fear my healthy diet could deteriorate into nothing but gatorade and potato stix.

I try to cook two or more things at once - minimizing the amount of heat added to the kitchen, and making enough "ready to eat" food to last for several meals and snacks. This week, for example, I put a layer of bacon in a pyrex baking dish, covered it completely with chicken thighs, and added a layer of bacon on top. Then I took a picture:

Probably my first photograph of bacon.
I rarely buy it. Seemed like kind of an event.

I covered the dish for baking in a slow oven. And since the oven was going to be on, it was a good time to fetch in a great big gorgeous straightneck squash - the Very First Harvest from the Very Raised Bed! - slice it the long way and clean out the seeds and core, then put it in a second covered pyrex baking dish with a little water to gently cook the squash without drying it out.

I know why I photographed the squash.
It's beautiful.

All week I've been eating moist, flavorful chicken with little shreds of bacon, along with a variety of "sides"...yellow squash, farro, sauted mushrooms, etc. When I see really fresh mushrooms at the grocery store I buy a package, eat some raw and cook the rest all at once, to add to meals for several days.

I love mushrooms.
I really ought to grow them.
Do any readers grow their own mushrooms?
Please advise!
And, oh, did I mention my first yellow crescent beans of the season? Grown from seeds I saved from last years plants! I wish I had taken a "before" picture but these beans were lightly steamed and in this dish with a little bacony chicken less than 15 minutes after being carried in from the garden.


Of course, another way to cook without generating a lot of heat or using a lot of energy - and to cook in multiple-meal quantities if desired - is to use a crockpot or slow cooker. I find them pretty darned useful. And I think slow cookers are popular both within and outside the US - correct me if I'm wrong about that! - so that's why I'm going to do a little cookbook giveaway:

This is Stephanie O'Dea's first cookbook - I think she has written four now! - and you can Left-Click to embiggen her description below, or here's a link to the Amazon page. But since I know it is important to many people, I just want to point out right now that all the recipes in the book are Gluten Free.

Would you like to put your name in the hat for a shiny new copy of this book? Easy peasy! Leave a comment on this blog post telling me one thing you like to make in a slow cooker. (If you haven't used a slow cooker before, please share a tip for cooking multiple things in the oven, or any other food-related way to save energy - we can use more ideas!)

I will do a random drawing at noon on Monday, the 24th, and will post the winner's name on the blog that night. Please check back. The winner will have three days to contact me with mailing information; if I don't hear back by Thursday night, I will draw another name on Friday.

Anyone, anywhere is very welcome to enter.
Feel free to share the giveaway.
Good luck!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

goat note

I'm sure you are on tenterhooks, wondering what happened with the five bags of raw cashmere I sent to be assessed at the Cashmere Goat Association show in Maine.

Unlike you and I, the goats couldn't care less.
Fiber? In Summer? Not of interest.
They are busy with other things.
Hay. Oats. Browse.
The loose mineral feeders.

Azalea after a visit to the mineral feeder

Dara, ditto


You aren't on tenterhooks about the fiber assessment either?
You weren't even wondering?

Well that's good, because it will be quite a while before I can share the results.

Shortly after mailing the package, I got an email from Maine asking if, after the CGA judging, I would like to send my fiber on to the Canadian Cashmere Producers show at the end of August. One of the Canadian cashmere breeders attending the US show kindly offered to transport any US entries across the border for the Canadian judging.

A rare post-publication editorial note, after reading several comments and thinking I may have misled you:

I love it that YOU love my goats so much, this sounded like an achievement on their part!  :)  But no, the offer came before the judging in Maine. A Canadian cashmere person made a very generous gesture to all the US cashmere breeders, eliminating both the risk and the expense of shipping their fiber to the Canadian show.
But thank you for thinking such nice thoughts about my gang o'goats :)

This unexpected opportunity seemed too good to pass up, so I paid another five entry fees and on they went. The only "down" side: the judge's comment cards from the US show are travelling with the fiber. I will not see any of the assessment comments from either judge until the fiber is mailed back to me in September! So, I just have to be patient.

Fortunately, cashmere goats are excellent teachers of patience. They teach it very, very well.

Just not by example.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

saturday snapshot

A rare playful moment from Lily

I'd been sitting and visiting with Tansy and Fern,
when I turned and found, right at eye-level,
this soft fuzzy nose.
The usually-aloof Lily
had decided to sneak up and surprise me.

I hope your weekend brings surprises
that make you laugh!

Friday, August 7, 2015

friday already

This week is flying by in a whirl of all sorts of tasks and chores and (another) migraine and (finally!) walks by the pond with Ms. Piper and the daily sketch that I'm finding both a challenge and enjoyable.

Here's one:

 Oddly, with all this #DrawingAugust activity,
I seem to have forgotten how to take a decent photograph.
The ones I'm posting on twitter (like this one) are atrocious!
In fact, I may replace this snap with a good one later,
but now it's after 6:30AM and time for chores.

We've been having extreme weather, with the ongoing humidity and heat interspersed with massive rainstorms and - sometimes, miraculously - fresh cool air!

Piper enjoys our little sketching parties, as she can literally run circles around me in the woods while I stay in one spot for a half-hour or so. I think she is under the impression that she is training me in Basic Obedience commands. Here she is coming back to make sure I am right where she told me to "stay!"

And here she is celebrating her achievements as a Human Trainer:

She does make me laugh!

And about five minutes after these pictures were taken, the sky grew dark and thunder started rolling right toward us. We did not make it out of the woods dry that day!

Just a quick heads-up:
it's been a while since I've done a giveaway,
and I have an idea.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

redrawing august

Remember #DrawingAugust 2014?

Well, I've signed on again. And if you have the inclination to join in, just follow that link back to Jean Stevens and ask her to add your name to the list so we all know how many people are playing along. And then put some sort of mark on some sort of paper each day in August, and post a snap on twitter with the hashtag #DrawingAugust.

It was so much fun last year, scrolling through the images posted each day. So many styles and subjects, and so much inspiration! I did not manage to post daily, but I did get into the habit of sketching more frequently than I've done in a long, long time. And it was enjoyable.

Off to a bit of a wobbly start today. Piper and I (and my sketchbook) headed for the pond, but as we got out of the car the blue sky suddenly went grey. A few minutes later, heavy rain began pouring straight down. Back in the car, I doodled with my colored pens - a birch branch hanging over the pond next to the car (seen through windshield wipers), and a red bee balm flower. But when the storm showed no sign of letting up, Piper and I headed back home and I posted this snap of my sketchbook.

I don't have a plan or theme for what to draw, but maybe it would be helpful. Or a list of subjects I could choose from at random. I'd really like to participate every day this year, even if it's just a 3-minute sketch...but sometimes it would be easier if there was an "assignment."

Does anyone want to join in?
If you do, we can cheer each other on :)