Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 pictorial














Sunday, December 27, 2015

winter sun

It's raining today, after two days of bright sunshine.

These pictures were taken on Christmas Day.

This one was taken shortly after high noon.
Can you believe those shadows?

Here's Tansy, the quiet little girl with the valentine face.

And here's Azalea. She's pretty special.
I wish I could have bred her this year.

Left to right: Betula, LeShodu, and Acer.
The Big Goats.

Here's Azalea again, with her mum, Lily.
My little camera could not cope with this high-contrast world.
"Focus? How do you expect me to focus?"

And because some things are the same every day,
rain or shine,
Christmas included:

(Remember this garden cart? It used to look like this.)

Wishing everyone a lovely Sunday, whatever your weather.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

after evening chores

When the hens were all abed
and the goats were fed and quiet,
I lingered outdoors tonight.

My view to the East:

My view to the West:

Good night, my friends.
I hope your Christmas Eve is magical.


It's been raining and raining. The paddocks are turning into deep, slippery mud, and yesterday I had to turn on lamps at 2PM, the house was so dark. Rain is predicted for three of the next four days.


We have turned the corner, if "corner" really applies to something as roundish as the Earth (not quite round but slightly bulging, isn't it?) and it's orbit (not round at all; elliptical). Well gosh, this analogy is certainly getting away from me. Okay, forget "turning the corner." We have somehow - wonderfully, miraculously - moved past the longest night of the year and are now growing "lighter" by the day.

What better way to celebrate than by planning the garden?

This week I received an order from one of my favorite companies, Sow True Seed. They even included a little surprise: pretty envelopes for saving my own seed next year. Nice!

Traditionally, I have waited til the long depths of February to start perusing the seed catalogs. But it felt so right to hold seeds in my hand at the Winter Solstice. I think December is going to be the new tradition.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

box of bags

I know all you cashmere-savvy readers are thinking, "Why are we looking at bags of raw cashmere in December? The Cloud Harvest is months away!"

You're absolutely right! Of course you are. After all, if you've been following this blog for any length of time, you know a LOT about cashmere goats!

Well, after the harvest winds down in Spring, goats can still look a bit scruffy. I often run the combs over them a time or two just to help them look tidy and feel good - I think it must feel good to get fresh air and sunlight down to their skin after being covered in dense cashmere plus a topcoat for several long months.

Whatever residual cashmere I comb out is discarded immediately - too much guard hair, VM, dirt, or matting.

But this past Spring, I thought it might be worth experimenting. Maybe put some aside for a "spare time" project. Clean and wash a little of it to see if it could be used for crafty felting...cashmere stones? Cashmere landscapes? Cashmere buttons?

So I put some aside.

I put some aside, and then forgot all about it.

Yesterday in the ongoing Plod Toward A Comfortable Home, I moved a box of ornaments (yay, ornaments! great timing!) from a chair, and discovered an even bigger box beneath. This one held several bags, each containing handfuls of raw fiber.

Oh. Oh, right. I put the fiber aside in case it could be useful  and then forgot it was there. In a box. Under another box. On a chair that no one could sit in because of the boxes. Yes.

So yesterday during my two-hours-total-achieved-by-many-brief-sessions of cleaning, I assessed all that fiber. Some was discarded, and some was put aside temporarily to make a stuffed chew toy for Piper today. Probably something as simple as a sock stuffed with cashmere and tied shut with a piece of twine. Simple, yet luxurious - ha!

The rest of the fiber is now sorted into labelled samples in general "problem" categories: VM, guard hair, etc. I thought you might find the color variation interesting:

Now if I do experiment with it this Winter, the process will be much more organized and educational. And it may even help with the sorting decisions I make while I'm combing the goats next Spring.

Because in case I haven't mentioned it...

the goats are definitely putting on that cashmere glow again.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

a smattering of snaps

In no particular order, a few snapshots of the past week.

Hay, more of.

Still plenty of room:

In other hay news:

 I installed four secondhand hay racks, purchased at a recent farm sale. Two are in the bigger barn and two in this little shelter built off the west wall of my workshop last autumn.

Violet, munching.

I thought you might enjoy this view, looking down through the window of my workshop. Lily on the left, Sambucus on the right:

The racks may need to be lined with mesh to slow the goats down, but I'm trying them as is, first. No need to go looking for more projects!

Enough about hay.

I did something this week I haven't done in, gosh, maybe 8 or 10 years. I bought eggs. Because the hens are in winter production mode, but I can't seem to stop doing this:

I keep baking cranberry-apple cakes.
Even when I just baked one a few hours earlier, and gave it to the good friend who brought my firewood.
Even when the springform pan is in the dishwasher and I have to experiment with one of my old Pyrex pans.
Even when I run out of cranberries when mixing the batter.

Yes, it has now been proven: 2 cups of cranberries is the minimum necessary for this recipe. I am slowly eating this cake, of course, because wasting food is a sin. Also, it's a pretty fair cake. But it needed another half-cup of cranberries to make it a really good cake.

This is how we learn ;)

We've had some remarkably balmy days lately.
And I've done an unusual amount of housecleaning this week.
It's not my strong suit, as you may know.
I'm not good at it, and I don't enjoy it.
And it's painful.

I won't pretend I have "become" a terrible housekeeper
as my joints have become increasingly painful.
No, I have never been a very good housekeeper,
and that shortcoming has always bothered me, quite a lot.
But now it is physically difficult to be even a poor housekeeper.

Last week, I decided to force myself to do something more than the minimum in the house, every single day that I was able to. So I did as much as I could, on 5 days of the seven. And it was truly exhausting. Nothing else that wasn't absolutely necessary got done. Piper had no walks in the woods, I am ashamed to say. I cancelled an appointment at short notice. I skipped a holiday fair. I haven't posted anything here for the entire week because I have been so completely wiped out.

I wanted to write here. A couple of times I started to choose images, and fell asleep with the laptop on my chest. Once also with a heating pad on my neck and icepacks on my hands. I didn't know a person could fall asleep holding icepacks.

The house is still mostly a shambles, and I don't know if I can keep up the every-day-possible housework efforts. But right now I'm going to share this little snapshot of my kitchen, looking toward the back door. Because having this much clear space in my little house is sort of a miracle.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

little roundtop

Back in October, I decided to put up a small roundtop shelter for winter hay storage. Not a big building project; a simple kit that comes in a box. Very popular in these parts.

The Little Green Sportswagon as rolling workbench.

Just to give you a frame of reference, here are five good-sized bales. Right now my little herd eats about one of these bales every day; they'll need more in winter. Bales vary in size and weight, depending on the plants, the time of harvest, the weather, and the baler. Lighter bales are easier for me to handle, but then of course more bales are needed. The goats care about the poundage they get to eat, not the number of bales I have to drag around. They are funny that way.

The pallet and a vapor barrier (here, a tastefully-arranged assemblage of overlapping feed bags) are necessary to prevent mold forming on the bottom bales. Mold is the very devil. Moldy/dusty hay becomes a very expensive mudhole-filler.


The roundtop turned into not my simplest project.

First, there was a backorder.
Then, there was a dead birch to be taken down.
Finally, there was the 12x20' frame to assemble and anchor.
The whole process took a lot of patience. And expense.
And most of November,
during which I was very anxious to Get The Hay. 


I'm still not sure it's properly "up."
But it's as "up" as it's likely to be this year.
And I've been working on the interior:

Isn't this a beautiful sight?
There are about 60 bales in there now.
I'll be comfortable with 120 more.

Even though I supplement the goats' feed with a bagged forage product and oats, good hay is an important mainstay of their diet. If I can fill the little roundtop with enough hay for several months, I won't have to scramble to bring home a few more bales every week, all winter long. It will be a load off my mind.

(Was that the most appropriate use of that expression ever?)

I had hoped to buy all I need from my neighbor, but he had a bad year and has already sold me all that he could without cutting off his other customers. My original HayMan, who is a good friend but lives quite a distance from here, was sold out before he had even made his second cutting last summer. I have two back-up suppliers, but the quality is not great...which will mean more waste, right from the get-go.
And as you know...
Goats do not need any help generating wasted hay.

See all that beautiful clean hay on the floor?
It was in the feeder two minutes ago.
Then LeShodu pulled it out, bit by bit.
Now she considers it inedible.
Because It Touched The Floor.

I'll have to get busy this weekend, making calls.
Hay farmers are the most popular people I know.

Flashback from last Winter: Meals on Wheels Boots
One meal for two goats in a separate paddock.
Sometimes a luncheon hamper is easier than dragging a sled.

Happy Saturday, everyone!
May your hay never touch the floor.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

cranberry apple mosaic cake

Rhode Island Greening

This is a rare post for Comptonia: a recipe.

Do you already have a favorite recipe for a simple cake with cranberries? If so, I'd love to hear it - put a link in the comments, please! If not, maybe you'd like to try this one. I don't think it belongs to anyone in particular, and I'm not sure how much tinkering I've done with it by now. Some, for sure.

But I've now made this cake three times in two weeks, the exact same way each time. Including once at 4AM, when I was tired of trying to sleep. A cake that I can put together after a sleepless night is a pretty good recipe to jot down, I think.

1/2 cup (1/4 pound) butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs (or two huge eggs)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz (2 cups) whole cranberries
½ large or 1 small apple
optional: 2-3 TBS white sugar plus 1/2 tsp

butter and flour bottom and sides of 9” springform pan
(or use parchment paper)

preheat oven to 350F

cream together:

1/2 c butter
1 c brown sugar

Blending after each addition, add:

3 eggs (or two huge eggs)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

2 c (8 oz.) whole cranberries
optional: 2 or 3 TBS white sugar, if the cranberry:batter ratio is worrying.

The batter will be very stiff. Coax gently into pan.

Thinly slice and peel apple. (Genuine food prep tip: I always slice apples first, then peel each slice with a single pass of the knife. Quick, efficient, easy.)

Break apple slices into pieces and lightly press into top for mosaic.

Bake at 350F for 55 minutes. During first 10 minutes, go outside and distribute apple peelings and core to goats. Be rigorously fair, even though some will believe their neighbor got more.

Remove pan from oven, place on cooling rack. Sprinkle ½ tsp white sugar on top (optional), remove side of pan. Cool at least somewhat before slicing.

If you try this cake, please let me know how you like it!