Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Shearing Day Pictures!

Almost two weeks ago Chickasaw Farm hosted their annual Spring Open House, aka Shearing Day. This is the second year that we have gone. Last year was the start of something for me. It was when I discovered the joy of spinning with a drop spindle. I've been spinning ever since.

When I got the reminder in the mail about this years Shearing Day, I cleared my calendar. We had a great time. Here are some of the best pictures of the day.

Here you can see champion shearer Nick Weaver shearing a sheep.

Here a few ladies are skirting the fleece. Skirting is picking out all the badly soiled and matter wool, poop and vegetation so that when the fleece is sent out to be processed it comes back nice and clean like it should.

Something there this year that wasn't last year were vendors. Evelyn from The Old Farm Girl had some wonderful weaving wool for sale at a great price. I wish I could have bought it all up. I'd love to weave some nice rugs. Maybe next time.

Someone also had all of this beautiful spun yarn for sale. Again, I didn't have enough money for everything I wanted.

These skirts were so amazing! The top is made from the top of old jeans. The lady sews a fabric skirt on and there you have it. I can't believe I forgot to get the lady's name and etsy store address. I will be on the lookout for one of these in my size.

Here are bags and bags of raw fleece on the porch of the store. This was just a small portion of what was available. Inside the store were more glorious things to be had. Yarn, wool, various knitted items, books, spindles, and even a pair of hand carders (which I bought!).

Here is a momma sheep with her two babies that were born not long before we arrived. See the little black one? His name is Odin and I really want to buy him from Sheila. I wonder if he would live OK with my goats? He's just the cutest lamb I have ever seen in my life.

They also have alpaca at the farm. They aren't sheared on the same day as the sheep. I am told they are too unpredictable to do with so many people around. But we do get to look at them and that keeps Meg happy.

This is some of the cast off wool from skirting. This is the stuff that I too dirty or matted to be cleaned, carded and spun.

Here we have a few ladies who brought their wheels and sat spinning in the afternoon. As you can see, even though it was jacket weather the sun was shining and everyone was having a great time.

And of course, the kids have to get some sort of goody at any event like that. A lady there had these beautiful knitted finger puppets for sale. Most were alpacas, which of course Meg got, but there were also chickens and a Santa. Jade took a chicken and Braden chose the Santa. I was so grateful they all chose differently.

If you live in the Reed City area and have any interest in the fiber arts I would recommend contacting Chickasaw Farm to find out about the workshops they host in the spring and summer months.

A huge thank you to Pat and Sheila for opening up their farm for a great day of fun.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I was out of town most of the day Sunday and Monday. It never occurred to me to make my gratitude post when I finally got home last night. I don't like to do it ahead of time because I like writing what I'm grateful for at the time the post goes live.

Today I am grateful for:
  • Time with my husband
  • Possibilities and choices
  • Spring
What are you grateful for today?

Monday, April 11, 2011


What a beautiful weekend. The temps made it all the way to 78 degrees yesterday. The sun was shining and the kids played and played and played outside all day. All the windows on the house were open and the chickens were cleaning up the garden. We couldn't have asked for a better day.

Today I am grateful for:
  • Open windows
  • Broody hens
  • Green grass

What are you grateful for today?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Baby Goat Pictures

Shamrock is officially living outside with the other goats now. This has not only been the best thing for her and for us, but also for her mother. Leah was just not giving milk like she should. With in hours of moving the baby outside she was finally taking care of her AND nursing her. This was shocking because she was 2 1/2 weeks old and had been only bottle fed to that point.

So now we are letting Shamrock nurse all day but separating her at night so I can milk in the morning. In just the first night, Leah's milk increased by 1/3.

Jade didn't want to give up having a bottle baby, so she takes Shamrock a small bottle in the morning while I milk Leah. That way I can take all the milk and Shamrock won't be completely starving when her mom comes back with an empty udder.

I love this picture. Ruger isn't overly fond of the goats. Cattle dogs don't like things that don't stay put when they want them too. However, Shamrock he finds to be at least tolerable. Probably because she was in the house for a couple weeks living with him.

Is it a goat or a rabbit? Shamrock still follows Jade around as much as she can. She is small enough to just walk through the holes in the livestock panels that make up the goat yard.

Oh wait, it's a Pointer! If you ever need something to make you smile, find a baby goat to watch.

Monday, April 4, 2011

We have new pets!

We attended our very first Rabbit and Cavy show this weekend. We had a great time and Jade really learned a lot.

We had promised Jade that if she brought her science grade back up from a C to an A before the show we would get her a Cavy. For those of you who don't know, a Cavy is a Guinea Pig.

Of course she brought the grade up in no time and has kept it there. On top of that, she knows her mother is a sucker and it took her about 2 seconds to talk me into two Cavies rather than one.

The one with the white face is a boar. The other one is a sow. They are only together when they are out of their cages and supervised. Aren't they cute?

Here it is the first week of April already. Where is the year going so fast? Not that I'm complaining. I love this time of year when the temps rise and the snow melts. We are hearing song birds along with the roosters crowing and goats bleating.

Today I am grateful for:
  • Melting Snow
  • April Showers
  • Guinea Pigs
What are you grateful for today?

Friday, April 1, 2011

I forgot!!

I completely forgot to make my post for Daring Bakers on March 27. Better late than never, right?

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

The challenge for March was a Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake. Honestly, it didn't sound all that great to me in the beginning. Really it just sounded like another sweet bread. I'm saying it didn't sound good, it just didn't sound like anything spectacular to me. I WAS WRONG! This coffee cake was amazing.

Since there are tons of blogs and web sites out there showing all the steps of making any yeast dough you have ever seen, and because my kitchen is still in a state of flux due to remodeling, I didn't include step by step photos this time, just the finished product.
Just look at the meringue and chocolate peeking out of the slits. It was almost melt in your mouth consistency and was perfect for the soft, sweet bread that wrapped it up.

See the beautiful swirls of chocolate and pecan that went inside with the meringue? I will be trying this again with different combinations of flavors inside. Some people even used less sugar in the dough and meringue and used savory fillings. The possibilities are endless and this dish is a feast for the eyes as much as the stomach.

Here is the recipe we received along with the variation ideas we were offered. I would have liked to try both and some of my own. May for April's challenge I will have time to play more.

Makes 2 round coffee cakes, each approximately 10 inches in diameter
The recipe can easily be halved to make one round coffee cake

For the yeast coffee cake dough:

4 cups (600 g / 1.5 lbs.) flour
¼ cup (55 g / 2 oz.) sugar
¾ teaspoon (5 g / ¼ oz.) salt
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons / 7 g / less than an ounce) active dried yeast
¾ cup (180 ml / 6 fl. oz.) whole milk
¼ cup (60 ml / 2 fl. oz. water (doesn’t matter what temperature)
½ cup (135 g / 4.75 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature

10 strands saffron for Ria’s version (Saffron might be hard to find and it’s expensive, so you can substitute with ½ - 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom or ground nutmeg. Or simply leave it plain like Jamie’s version)

For the meringue:

3 large egg whites at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup (110 g / 4 oz.) sugar

For the filling:

Jamie’s version:
1 cup (110 g / 4 oz.) chopped pecans or walnuts
2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (170 g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate

Ria’s version:
1 cup (130 g / 5 oz.) chopped cashew nuts
2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon garam masala (You can make it at home – recipe below - or buy from any Asian/Indian grocery store)
1 cup (170g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips ( I used Ghirardelli)

Egg wash: 1 beaten egg
Cocoa powder (optional) and confectioner’s sugar (powdered/icing sugar) for dusting cakes

**Garam (means “hot”) masala (means “mixture”) is a blend of ground spices and is used in most Indian savory dishes. It is used in limited quantities while cooking vegetables, meats & eggs. There is no “one” recipe for it as every household has a recipe of their own. Below, I am going to share the recipe which I follow.

4 or 5 sticks (25 g) Cinnamon Sticks (break a stick and open the scroll)
3 ½ tablespoons (25 g / less than an ounce) Cloves, whole
100 g. (3.5 oz.) Fennel seeds
4 tablespoons (25 g / less than an ounce) Cumin seeds
1 ½ tablespoons (10 g / less than half an ounce) Peppercorns
25 g (less than half an ounce) Green Cardamom pods

In a small pan on medium heat, roast each spice individually (it hardly takes a minute) until you get a nice aroma. Make sure you stir it throughout so that it doesn’t burn. As soon as each spice is roasted, transfer it to a bowl to cool slightly. Once they are all roasted, grind into a fine powder by using a coffee grinder, or pestle & mortar. Store in an airtight container and use as needed.


Prepare the dough:

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups (230 g) of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast.

In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted. Ria’s version: add the 10 saffron threads to the warmed liquid and allow to steep off of the heat for 10 minutes. This will give the mixture a distinct aroma and flavor and a yellowish-orange hue.

With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add the eggs and 1 cup (150 g) flour and beat for 2 more minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface (use any of the 1 ½ cups of flour remaining) and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, sexy and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed.

Place the dough in a lightly greased (I use vegetable oil) bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, 45 – 60 minutes. The rising time will depend on the type of yeast you use.

Prepare your filling:In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling if using. You can add the chopped nuts to this if you like, but I find it easier to sprinkle on both the nuts and the chocolate separately.

Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue:

In a clean mixing bowl – ideally a plastic or metal bowl so the egg whites adhere to the side (they slip on glass) and you don’t end up with liquid remaining in the bottom – beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy and opaque. Add the vanilla then start adding the ½ cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form.

Assemble the Coffee Cakes:

Line 2 baking/cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time (keep the other half of the dough wrapped in plastic), roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch (about 51 x 25 ½ cm) rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch (3/4 cm) from the edges. Sprinkle half of your filling of choice evenly over the meringue (ex: half of the cinnamon-sugar followed by half the chopped nuts and half of the chocolate chips/chopped chocolate).

Now, roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching to seal.

Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife (although scissors are easier), make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch (2 ½ cm) intervals. Make them as shallow or as deep as desired but don’t be afraid to cut deep into the ring.

Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings.

Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden brown. The dough should sound hollow when tapped.

Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheets onto the table. Very gently loosen the coffee cakes from the paper with a large spatula and carefully slide the cakes off onto cooling racks. Allow to cool.

Just before serving, dust the tops of the coffee cakes with confectioner’s sugar as well as cocoa powder if using chocolate in the filling. These are best eaten fresh, the same day or the next day.

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