June 2, 2015

So, I bought some fleece…

Prior to going to Maryland, I had been informed I +must+ purchase some Roclans Cormo. As I am already spoiled by having enough of Sue Reuser’s Champion & prizewinning fleeces to last the rest of my life, I may have been a tad skeptical going in. After lining up early, I made a dash for the Cormo section of the barn filled with over 950 fleeces. It was a spinner’s nirvana! I immediately grabbed a class winning Cormo, which was indeed a Roclans. Another fleece fan graciously agreed to split it with me. This is some gorgeous stuff:


I had a nice chuckle with Kate from Roclans when she told Hereina had been imported from Sue’s farm in CA.

Roclans Hereina

Roclans Hereina

Roclans Hereina

Roclans Hereina

Then there was the Grand Champion and Best Handspinning  fleece. GORGEOUS. These fleeces are offered on silent bid. After a bit of backin’ & forthin’, the other bidder agreed to allow me to purchase 2.5lbs, rather than bidding the entire fleece up some more. It is worthy of the judges lovely comments.

Ruppert's Garth

Ruppert’s Garth

MDSW Grand Champion fleece & Jane Hyland Memorial Award Best Handspinning fleece

MDSW Grand Champion fleece & Jane Hyland Memorial Award Best Handspinning fleece

So, now I have enough I have SABLE (Stash Enhancement Beyond Life Expectancy) when it comes to cormo. Many many shawls worth…

Ruppert's Garth

Ruppert’s Garth

Ruppert's Garth

Ruppert’s Garth

I also purchased some lovely grey variegated BFL with a 6.5″ – 7.5″ length . I had used a bit of this ewe’s fleece from a previous  to spin up the blue ribbon winning Lace Singles skeins.

Sapling Ridge Farm #51

Sapling Ridge Farm #51

The washing will begin this weekend. Must go buy another big jug of blue Dawn.

-the redhead-

May 31, 2015

Fun for the week


You’re welcome.

-the redhead-

…+whirly whirly whirly+…

May 9, 2015

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival (MSDW) – awards

Last weekend I went to visit Mom & attend MDSW in person for the first time. I’d sent skeins in for competition in the past, but this time we got to experience the Big Show.

My skeins did pretty well. I am pleased to have swept the field and won the Best Handspun award, with a perfect score of 100. I must have stood there for a while with a somewhat thunderstruck expression on my face. The comment from the judge is ‘This is a perfect skein’.

My 2015 MDSW ribbon collection

My 2015 MDSW ribbon collection



I’m going to dye the white skein up in the colors Mom wants to crochet a little Mr. of Mrs. Santa.

I’ve discovered the one tiiiiny drawback of bringing my Mom to the festival this year – she has PLANS for my entries next year, no matter how many times I say ‘I only enter every other year’. Her plans involve me spinning, knitting, and weaving MANY items, PLUS I should also crochet a lacey shawl…

-the redhead-

April 25, 2015

Planting, Part 3

Planted 4/24:

Scarlet Nantes – 15″
Yellowstone – 7″ + Red Samurai – 8″
White Satin – 7″ + Red Samurai – 8″
Dragon – 15″

Celesta radish – 15″
White Beauty radish – 15″

Next planting 5/5.

-the redhead-

April 25, 2015

My practical and inexpensive grow light setup

So, it’s not the prettiest, but is an inexpensive and effective setup. At the Farmers Market today I figured even at $30 apiece for the fixture plus T8 bulbs, it is still far less expensive then what I would have spent on the 90+ plants I have started from seed. I’m up to 3 lights as of today. I think the blue tarp really completes the look, don’t you?

Extra cinder blocks always come in handy

Extra cinder blocks always come in handy


In other news it looks like green peas I planted are finally making a break for the sun.

-the redhead-

April 21, 2015

Potting up

Potted up the big tomatoes & the peppers. Peppers could have lasted another week or 2 in the starting cells – medium blocks didn’t hold together too well. Peppers I thought may be yellow are pretty puny. May need to buy another light & bring up another cinderblock this weekend.

Also, can start 1 flat of beans right before I go, as they won’t need any light.

Question for the day – how to keep everything watered while I go east?

Yesterday tried starting some seeds in paper towels – tomatoes & squash. In plastic bag on heating pad. We’ll see how that goes.

-the redhead-

April 19, 2015

Amending the soil

The next step in getting the community garden plot together was tilling in the 3 tons of compost. So I rented a tiller from our local Home Depot, who are open late, after the day gig and worked my soil.

Handy rental from Home Depot

Handy rental from Home Depot

I did 2 passes along each strip, plus overlapping by half the tiller width on each pass in the interest of incorporating the compost well. This gave me a great starting place to build on.

All done!

All done!

-the redhead-

April 18, 2015

New Garden Plan

Garden map



April 17, 2015

It’s good to have a little help with this gardening business

A few weekends ago we had had a mission. One of the things and both myself and my community gardening companion is crime T needed was compost. LOTS of compost. T was very gracious in helping with his pickup and lots of shoveling. Between the two of us plus one other gardener and my neighbor R, who is much stronger than I, we got ~8 TONS of compost over to the community garden and wheelbarrowed to everyone’s plots. Young Z was adorable as he helped with his tiny shovel. Click for larger images.

The local folks

The local folks

We are lucky that Lee Hill Peat, a nice local business, is right around the corner. In a cheerful mood we set off in the truck to acquire the black gold needed to amend our plots. The gal in the office gave us an idea of how much was required to accomplish our goals and the compost options available. We chose ‘the good stuff’. For an extra $15 is was a no brainer. Plus no worries about the amount of salt in the cow compost.

I would drive heavy equipment all day if I could...

I would happily drive heavy equipment all day if I had the opportunity…

The heavy equipment is always fun, and they had the truck loaded before I had finished paying.


The next phase of the process was much more labor intensive. LOTS of shoveling & wheelbarrowing was involved. There may have been naps afterward.

The day ended with mounds of compost scattered about various plots. No one had the energy to mess with it any further.

-the redhead-

Piles and piles of compost

Piles and piles of compost

April 13, 2015

Planting, Part 2

Dropped by my garden plot after work to toss down some carrot & radish seed. The easiest of my plantings – sprinkle, cover, water, done in 10 mins. Way more fun than doing my taxes tonight…

Scarlet Nantes – 15″
Yellowstone – 15″
White Satin – 15″
Dragon – 15″

Celesta radish – 15″
White Beauty radish – 15″

Next planting 4/23.

-the redhead-

April 12, 2015

Starting Seeds, Part 3 & Planting, Part 1

Running late on starting these seeds, but finally beginning to catch up from being away + class + super sick.

Spent 30 mins planting peas at my community garden site:

Dwarf Grey Sugar Snow  – 34″
Golden Sweet Snow – 34″
Shiraz Snow – 34″

Day 14 – Dwarf Grey Sugar & Golden Sweet peeking up a bit

Started today with the heating pad on top of the fridge:

Virginia Sweets – 3 plants
Indigo Rose – 2 plants
Indigo Cherry Drops – 2 plants
Indigo Apple – 1 plant
Indigo Blue Berries – 1 plant
Cuostralee – 1 plant
Costoluto Fiorentino – 2 plants
Reisetomate – 1 plant
Harmony F1 – 1 plant
Mountain Magic – 1 plant
Snow White – 1 plant

Yellow Straightneck squash – 2 plants
White Pattypan – 1 plant
Yellow Pattypan – 1 plant
Sugar Baby watermelon – 2 plants
Moon & Stars watermelon– 2 plants
Sivan melon – 2 plants
Magnifienza melon – 2 plants
Straight Eight cuke – 2 plants
Silver Slicer cuke – 2 plants

Day 4 – cukes up, 2 tomatoes up, see some action on melons.

Day 5 – most tomatoes up. Only 2 Virginia Sweets (poor germination rate for this batch of seeds), no Indigo Cherry Drops yet, only 1 Indigo Rose. Cukes went crazy overnight, had to pull & replant. Magnifienza melons all up, 1 Sivan melon, Yellow Pattypans up, watermelons just poking their heads up. Moved to under light.

-the redhead-

April 11, 2015

35 Eggplant Alley

My new gardening home is at 35 Eggplant Alley. Preparations proceed apace.

Eggplant Alley

Eggplant Alley


April 2, 2015

Seedling Dance Workout

My mom thought it was funny when I called putting the fan on the seedlings for a few hours after work The Seedling Dance Workout. Maybe I should play them some dance tunes. ABBA, perhaps?

-the redhead-

March 28, 2015

Philadelphia Flower Show 2015

Mom did pretty well at this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show (PFS). She came home with 3 1sts in Begonia, informal foliage & Cattleys; 5 2nds in Begonia, informal foliage & Succulent, non-flowering; 5 3rds in Begonia, informal foliage & Succulent, non-flowering; and 2 Honorable Mentions.

Apparently there was some drama with a volunteer deciding one of her plants was in the wrong class, and then damaging it while hiding it in a corner. Mom’s friends rallied ’round to ensure the issue was resolved as best as possible. She says the plant will recover, so that’s good.

-the redhead-

March 28, 2015

Just one more thing

Is it wrong that I’m taking advantage of the desire (I’d say need, but who would I be fooling? Besides, that’s a distinction I make professionally on a daily basis.) to order some Armenian cucumbers to include 6 other things? Because I already have to pay the shipping charge…

Here’s the additions to my grow list:

Armenian cucumbers – darn that Tomatoville thread which started all of this…
Costoluto Fiorentino tomatoes – because they look cool
Harmony tomatoes – trying to replace the discontinued Annelise
Mountain Magic tomatoes – trying to replace the discontinued Annelise
Indigo Blue Berries tomatoes – because they look cool too
Purple 68 carrots – more coolness
Red Samurai carrots – because I have to have +all+ the colors…

-the redhead-

March 21, 2015

Starting Seeds, Part 2

Started today:

In germinating setup with peppers:
Broccoli – De Cicco – 6 plants
Brussels Sprouts – Doric F1 – 4 plants
Cauliflower- Janvel F1 – 6 plants

Under the lights:

Dwarf Siberian – 2 cells
Red Russian – 2 cells

Green Star, Green Leaf – 2 cells
Mirlo, Green Butterhead – 2 cells
Outredgeous, Red Romaine – 2 cells
Red Sails, Red/Green Leaf – 2 cells
Roxy, Red/Green Butterhead – 2 cells

Spinach – Renegade – 2 cells

Day 2 – put broccoli, Brussels sprouts & cauliflower under lights with peppers. Maybe beginning to see sprouts? May need to purchase another growing tray.

Day 3 – broccoli & Brussels sprouts up.

Day 4 – lettuce, kale, and cauliflower sprouted.

Day 8 – spinach sprouted

-the redhead-

March 21, 2015

SeedSaver Exchange Garden Planner

I learned about the SeedSaver Exchange Garden Planner over at Tomatoville. This is a fun online toy that allows you to produce a nice garden map while illustrating the spacing needed, how many plants you can fit in a row, etc.

Garden map I was pretty close with what I thought I could grow in my community garden plot. I am tucking 3 tomato plants (1 each of the full sized varieties I’m growing) in as an experimental comparison to the plants in the self-watering containers on my deck. It looks like I have room for another row of something. Or I might move the squash down to that spot and give my melon/watermelon growing experiment more room. I will have to consult with other community gardeners to see what has worked for them.












The program also populates a plant list with starting, planting, and harvesting information.

Plant info


I’m +supposed+ to be working on my research paper, but have spent the last 40 mins playing with my garden map…

-the redhead-

March 18, 2015


I can see July from here.

What you see depends on how you view the world. To most people, this is just dirt. To a farmer, it’s potential. ~ Doe Zantamata



-the redhead-

March 15, 2015

Starting Seeds, Part 1

For starting seeds I use the Burpee XL Ultimate Growing System with XL Super Growing Pellets. 72 extra pellets will be stored in the basement with the self watering trays. Need to order new 98839 – Self Watering Replacement Mats for next year – see coupon in seed envelope. Put on top of fridge with plastic tent for warmth. Where is my heating mat?!?

Started today:

Bangles Blend Pepper – 8 plants
Feher Ozon Pepper – 8 plants

Annelise – 2 plants – need to find someone who has a stash of this discontinued seed
Brandwine OTV – 2 plants
Cosmonaut Volkov – 3 plants
Indigo Rose – 2 plants
Matt’s Wild – 1 plant
Peacevine – 2 plants
Snow White – 1 plant
Virginia Sweets – 3 plants

Day 5 – 3/4 of tomatoes germinated. All except Indigo Rose some Virginia Sweets, some Cosmonaut Volkov.

Day 6 – moved under lights, replanted some VS & CV.

Day 8 – all but 1 pepper germinated, moved under the lights. Replanted 2 cells of Indigo Rose.

Day 14 – Cosmonaut Volkov replants sprouted.

-the redhead-

I love these self-watering growing trays

I love these self-watering growing trays

March 15, 2015


I ordered many seeds +smile+


Territorial Seed  – spinach, yellow patty pan squash, white cherry tomatoes; next year – Indigo Kumquat
Tomato Fest  – Brandywine OTV tomatoes + 2 varieties of green zebra for Mom
Diane’s Seeds  – Cosmos for the hummingbirds
Tomato Growers – Virginia Sweets
High Mowing Seeds  – everything else (lots!)

Other interesting seed sources for next year:

Seed Savers Exchange
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Tatiana’s TOMATObase
Mr. TomatoHead
Edible Antiques
Yellow Peas
Double Helix Farms
Frogsleap Farm
Secret Seed Cartel
Wild Boar Farms

-the redhead-

March 11, 2015

The 2015 Garden Plan

I have grand plans for gardening this year, with plants in both 12 self-watering bins on the deck and in the ground at my 20 x 20 community garden plot. We’ll see how it plays out.



Beans (3 colors), Cucumbers (2 kinds), Greens (6 lettuce, 2 kale, mustard, spinach), Sweet Peppers (4 colors), Tomatoes (3 full, 2 salad, 4 cherry, 1 tiny in a variety of red, gold, bicolor, indigo, and white)



Beans (3 colors), Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots (4 colors), Cauliflower, Cucumber (2 kinds), Melons (2 kinds), Peas, Radishes (2 colors), Squash (3 kinds), Watermelon (2 kinds)

Did I mention I gardeningtherapyhave a spreadsheet?

I need to get another light bar & grow bulbs at Home Depot. I really want a nice 3-tier Sunlite Garden, some day, but for now I make do with the cheap florescent lights on stacked paperbacks. The books allow me to raise the lights as the seedlings grow. That reminds me, I need to pick up a tarp to put down in front of the sliders for the seedlings. Will start everything once the conference this week is over.

Do you think 10 kinds of tomatoes (15 plants) is too much for just one person? ;)


-the redhead-


March 9, 2015

Last Year’s Container Garden

Last year’s container gardening on the deck experiment went very well. I grew Beans, Cucumbers (2 kinds), Greens (several kinds of lettuce and spinach), Peas, Peppers (2 kinds), Radishes (2 colors), Strawberries, Tomatoes (9 kinds). Click for larger images.

The tomatoes were very happy

The tomatoes were very happy

My self watering bins

My self watering bins

Everything did very well in the self-watering bins I made, especially the tomatoes. They loved having all the heat and water they wanted. Nothing beats a warm tomato fresh off the vine. I took a mixing bowl full of fresh, organic, homegrown tomatoes to work at least once a week.

Tomatoes for work

Tomatoes for work
























I enjoyed having homegrown strawberries, but the ongoing war with the local squirrels was exhausting. One would think that a second floor deck would be safe from the predations of local wildlife. Not true! The little buggers just came over the roof. The war lead to some imaginative prevention measures which would work for a week or two at a time, but ultimately weren’t fruitful. The squirrels didn’t bother the rest of my plants, so I think I’m going to skip the strawberries this year.

strawberries garden9












Having fresh greens was a real joy, and encouraged my better eating habits. I like having a variety of colors and flavors in my salads, so I grew several different types of greens. One draw back of gardening up on the deck is that it’s very hot during the height of the summer. This was causing some of my greens to bolt. I figured out how to make shade tents for them using some row cover, which protected them through most of the summer.

I’m looking forward to my deck garden again this year. Perhaps I’ll acquire a table and chairs so I can sit out there on the nice evenings.

-the redhead-

garden8 garden5 garden7



March 6, 2015


I am the happy new holder of a plot in the local community garden. Between this 20×20 plot and the self-watering containers on my deck I’ll have enough produce to share with my neighbors. I may have ordered almost 40 different kinds of seeds. I have a spreadsheet…

It doesn't look like much now...

It doesn’t look like much now…

April 8, 2012

Eat Local, All Year Long – MMLocal 2012 Harvest Share Pre-orders open now!

Opening day at the Boulder Farmer's Market

Remember all the raving about the great harvest share products from MMLocal last year? Click for larger images.

This is your opportunity to sign up for the lowest price of the year for shares and part shares – MMLocal 2012 Harvest Share Pre-orders.

From the MMLocal website – Our philosophy is: simple. We partner with local growers to pick our produce at the height of ripeness, and preserve those delicious local flavors using the most natural and traditional methods of putting food by. It’s real, local food that tastes like it’s supposed to. So we can all eat local and delicious, all year round.

I had a nice chat with Jim & Adam at the Farmer’s Market Saturday morning. They kindly remembered me – I guess I’m an MMLocal fangirl +laugh+ They are excited to be planning some new programs, which they’ve promised to update me about soon. MMLocal has sold 80% of what they put up last summer, so I imagine they will be even more popular this year. You don’t want to miss your chance to get in on the bounty.

Just in case you all need a reminder, here’s what I received last year. We enjoyed a couple jars of their juicy, ripe, summer pears at the Farm Girl Dinner Saturday evening – not a leftover in sight +grin+

Feel free to forward this on to others who may be interested.

A small sample of the variety offered by MMLocal

Buy local. Eat well. Support our small farmers & businesses.

Tell them I sent you. <—- yes, do this part too.

-the redhead-

Colorful peppers

April 8, 2012

Opening Day at the Farmer’s Market

Recycling can be stylish...

It’s been awhile since I had time to devote to the blog. I’ve been busy, busy working with my partner to get a small (sadly not food related) business up and running. You can check out the company and some of my handiwork here – I did the website & wrote most of the content. Feel free to pass it on if you know an organization who needs our services – we are trying to hunt up new business. Sooooo, that’s what I’ve been up to. Not nearly as much fun as food, fiber, and other fascinating topics, hmmm?

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming…

Vegetable starts for sale

Happy Spring! One of the sure signs of spring around here is the opening of Boulder County Farmer’s Markets in Longmont and downtown Boulder. Some years we ‘enjoy’ opening day bundled up against the snow and wind, but the weather has been unusually temperate over the last few weeks so today was quite nice. Brilliantly sunny & warmish – the perfect kind of morning to get out of the house and pick up some fresh greens. Click to see larger images.

I got to start the morning by heading up to the Longmont site to meet some friends. I arrived a bit early, and had the chance to wander around a little and chat with some of my farmer’s market peeps. It’s always fun to catch up after the winter, and see what new and exciting things folks have to offer. My first stop was to see George & Cindy (who I missed this morning – I’ll catch you next week Miss Cindy) at Colorado Aromatics. George was busy setting up, so of course I pitched in. They have some interesting new things, including the face mask that I tried out last fall. I have to check my stash of Cindy’s products and see what I’m running low on.

My friends and I wandered through the market, seeing some of our favorite vendors and purchasing fresh ingredients for the Farm Girl Dinner. We stopped at Hazel Dell for fresh mushrooms, Haystack Mountain for delicious goat cheese with cracked pepper, picked up a bag of fresh greens for a salad, and 2 loaves of wonderful bread from the Med bakery. We also spotted the Frog Star Farm set up (unfortunately I missed them at the table), Ollin Farms had some lovely produce, and we stopped at Outrageous Baking to sample their tasty gluten-free baked goods. I’m especially fond of their Orange Cranberry bread and Cinnamon Coffee Cake – yum!

Street Fare Red Velvet minis

I was also fortunate to be introduced to Sarah Haas from Street Fare – The Boulder Shelter Bakery. I’ve been excited about this program since it was brought to my attention a couple months ago. Basically Sarah works with residents of the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless to teach them useful skills, build their confidence, and get them out into the community with their gourmet mini-cupcakes. How fabulous is that?!? Drop by either market to pick up a 6 or 12 pack in the cute, but oh-so-practical egg crates. Make sure to donate an extra few bucks for the program, okay? Street Fare also caters weddings and other events.

It was really fun to see all the new vendors who are going to be up in Longmont, as well as touch base with all my favorites from last year. I’m glad to see that Lisa is still there as the Longmont market manager. We had a brief chat – she’s very excited about this year.

Of course, I also had to head down to the Boulder market too. Some of my favorite vendors are down there, so it’s worth hunting up a parking space on a busy Saturday morning.

Adam & Jim were at the MMLocal booth with some of their lovely products. They kindly remembered me – I guess I’m an MMLocal fangirl +laugh+ I’ve been enjoying items from my 2011 market share throughout the winter. It’s time to sign up for a 2012 harvest share pre-order – more to follow on this.

Fresh greens

I visited with Carol at Corner Market – good to see her & her daughter. I need to take them some more jam. Cure Organic Farm always has a wonderful variety of items at their booth. I had to stop by and see what Windsor Dairy brought for the beginning of the season. I tried an especially piquant aged, dry blue which brought a big smile on my face. I also swung by the Dew Farms to say hi to the guys. I didn’t get to see Cindy up in Longmont this week, but I’m sure I’ll see her there soon. Noosa Yoghurt – still the best.

The big shock of the Boulder market was Hope Hummus is not there this year! Based on the number of people who were asking where they were, I think it’s a mistake to skip the market. ‘We’ feel pride and investment in helping them grow and become so popular. Their booth was always jammed. At least a dozen people asked me what was up with them.

Life is better now that winter is over and the market is open.

-the redhead-

We have all kinds here...

November 11, 2011

Friday Favorites

Stovetop Mac & Cheese by Local Kitchen – nice recipe for when the power is out. Good reminder to check the propane tank for my grill.
Receiving home made canned gifts by Canning Homemade! – very good pointers for the canning & holiday seasons. No worries about my jams & preserves, as I’m quite the scientist when I put by.
Chipotle Bacon Caramels by Local Kitchen – I don’t think there are words to encompass this goodness. I’m dreaming about these with dark chocolate.
Boulder Food News by Grace(full) Plate – a handy way to keep up with events in town.
Why does it matter where your honey comes from? – Most of the honey sold in chain stores across the country doesn’t meet international quality standards.
Consumers losing faith in Big Food – interesting article.

Handspun blanket project beginning by Knit & Nosh – I have 3 or 4 other handspun projects in the queue, but might also follow along here. Of course, it will take me more than a year…
Schacht doing cherry – I +sooo+ did not need to know they were making Cherry Pups…
Alice Starmore / Virtual Yarns – my knitting hero has published new designs


Faribault Woolen Mills re-opened for business – buy American
‘Fracking’ chemical found in town’s aquifer – not a big surprise…

-the redhead-

November 7, 2011

Harvest Share from MM Local

As some people have inquired, here are the contents of a harvest share:

Yummy items for the winter

The crossed off item is 6 jars of their wonderful Boulder Beets. Unfortunately I am a beet free zone.

Buy local. Eat well. Support our small farmers & businesses.

Tell them I sent you.

-the redhead-

November 5, 2011

Eat Local, All Year Long – MM Local Harvest Share Pickup

Some may have noticed a dearth of tales about putting by tomatoes, sauce, peaches, and the like this year. That’s because I had ‘a plan’. Rather than trying to do it all myself again, I invested in a harvest share from the fabulous folks at MM Local Foods.

After eagerly waiting all summer, today I skipped Pilates class to pick up my share. It takes something special for me to miss class. Click for larger images.

Colorful peppers

I have to make more room on my shelves

What’s a harvest share? The local harvest share is similar a CSA for preserving. Instead of receiving a weekly share during the growing season, however, MM Local purchases and puts up a variety of fabulous local, seasonal produce. They do it the same way I do – fresh, ripe produce in hot jars. By hand. What can I say – I’m an old school kinda gal. At the end of the season you get to pick up a myriad of wonderful items to last until next summer.

They are my kind of people, who believe in producing wonderful products which support local agriculture.

From their website – Our philosophy is: simple. We partner with local growers to pick our produce at the height of ripeness, and preserve those delicious local flavors using the most natural and traditional methods of putting food by. It’s real, local food that tastes like it’s supposed to. So we can all eat local and delicious, all year round.

A trio of tomatoes

Peaches & pears

2 kinds of pickles

They have canned over 50,000 pounds of Colorado produce at the peak of ripeness from local, family-owned organic farms. That’s a lot of support for sustainable Colorado agriculture, rather than big agribusiness.

I was excited to see they had sold out of the most popular add-ons, even as I kicked myself for not ordering more peaches. Palisade peaches are a weakness of mine. Since their products are available at local retailers I won’t have to do without.

I wasn’t the only one who showed up a bit early to pick up my share. It was wonderful to see so many people there, waiting for our goodies to be parceled out. There was quite a group of like-minded folks there. I was impressed by the pick up organization, and enchanted by all the jars. Just look at those beauties. It’s better than Christmas. And I finally have some pickles +smile+

The only hiccup in the process was my credit union. They were apparently under the misapprehension that the charge on my card may have come from another type of popular local industry with the same initials, so they blocked my card for possible fraud. I had to go into the office, where I assured the nice person in the fraud department that it was a valid charge I had made with a local business +grin+

Do you know where your food comes from? I do.

Each label has a unique batch number, as well as the name of the farm on which it was grown, which allows you to track where that particular batch came from and learn more about the farmer.

These are farmers I’ve seen every Saturday at the Boulder County Farmer’s Markets in Longmont and downtown Boulder for years. The same farmers I buy produce from for use in my own jams and preserves.

A special treat

I may have already eaten the Rosemary Pears for dinner…

Buy local. Eat well. Support our small farmers & businesses.

Tell them I sent you.

-the redhead-

November 3, 2011

Friday Favorites

October Unprocessed round-up by Eating Rules – over 3000 people participated. The challenge was encouraging and I picked up some nice tips.
Farm dinner ‘inspected’ & ruined by Health Dept. – Bleach? Really?
Cranberry Sauce My Way by Washington’s Green Grocer- this looks interesting.
Best roadside sign – +laugh!+
Local Food: No Elitest Plot by Mark Bittman – the comments are very interesting too.
Food manifesto by Formation of a Foodie – a considered approach.

Teddy Bears Picnic by Daisy Hill Weaving Studio – all the bears are hand made from hand woven fabric. I want one.
Brooklyn Tweed Mill Tour – a small New Hampshire mill producing high quality dyed-in-the-wool yarns from Wyoming sheep. I haven’t been tempted to buy yarn for a long time.

St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series!!! – Go Cards! I grew up in STL.
The psychology of food aversions – this tangentially explains why I occasionally still have a problem with ground beef & the ether smell at the dry cleaners. I wonder if I can slide torture by eggplant in here too…

-the redhead-

November 1, 2011

Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full

3 and a half bags full

Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir,
Three bags full.
One for my…

Who am I kidding – they are all for +me+.

In June I made a quick (literally – I made it from town to the fairgrounds in 45 minutes. For once I wasn’t stuck behind slow cars on my way up the hill) trip up to Estes to pick up a fleece I had reserved last year. +A+ fleece. One.

I had even said publicly at the previous spin in I was only picking up that one fleece. I was earnest! The people who know me laughed.

Since I wasn’t able to attend the Wool Market over that weekend, I sprinted up the hill to meet Evelyn and pick up Pearl’s fleece on Friday evening. One fleece. Last year I fell in love with my gorgeous grey Teeswater x CVM Rock Day project fleece (Pearl), and reserved it right away. Click for larger images.

I should never start my shopping in the fleece show barn… The smell was heavenly. I said out loud I was only picking up that one fleece. The people who know me (everyone) laughed.

Pearl lock (Evelyn Whitley)

Margaret lock (Evelyn Whitley)

Pearl & Margaret locks

Evelyn and I met up, and I was thrilled with my bag of sheepy goodness. Then she had other fleeces she invited me to look at. Danger! Danger Will Robinson! Well, okay I’ll just have a peek. No harm in that, right? Evelyn, as always, brought some gorgeous fleeces with her. I was really attracted to one of her whites, which eventually went Reserve Grand Champion White and Spinner’s Choice, but ended up fondling another white fleece (Margaret) several times. My downfall was it’s similarity in handle, crimp, luster, and length to Pearl’s fleece. I could use them together in the same projects. I could dye the white and throw a little color into the blanket I had planned for the grey. It was aaaalllll over at that point. But buying two fleeces isn’t all that bad, right?

Of course, I had to take a spin around to see what other people brought. I picked out Sharon’s fleeces before I even made it to the tables, and put my money on one of hers to go White Grand Champion. I spotted on of Robin’s fleeces, and a few others I recognized. I was just going to take a quick cruise ’round, pick some class winners, and escape head home before I got into too much trouble. Really!

Fine Corriedale lock

I was doing okay until I made it to the fine whites. My eye was caught by a lovely corriedale fleece. Nice handle, good crimp, right up my alley. Since the grower wasn’t there I ended up calling from the barn. We had a nice chat, and I asked her to phone me the next day with more info. She didn’t have a price (?), but I wasn’t worried. I ended up leaving a blank check with one of the gals from our local spinning group, who kindly offered to bring my fleeces back to town after the judging. I ended up paying waaayyyy to much for that fleece, but that’s a whole ‘nother story involving me being a little too trusting of fellow fiber folk (not the person who picked up my fleece). I won’t make that mistake again.

At which point I fled the show barn, and wandered over to the market to see some old friends. First I stopped by to see Sharon, which inevitably lead to another fiber purchase. This time just half a Corriedale X fleece. Vair fleece is what I ‘grew up on’, so I can’t resist. It made me feel +slightly+ better that Maggie was there buying the other half. I had fun visiting with Robin, Susan, Galina, and others.

Corriedale X lock (Sharon Vair)

Did you know Oklahoma fleece smells different than Colorado fleece?

So much for my one fleece. I should never go to the wool market unsupervised.

-the redhead-

October 30, 2011

And now, the rest of the story.

When we last saw our heroine, she was in grave condition. She had been defeated by the nefarious cotton warp.

That warp sat on my loom, mocking me, from March through August. I would go and futz with it once in awhile, but it always won. Since the floor loom is rather big, it was also holding my studio (guest bedroom? what guest bedroom?) hostage.

I could hear the warp laughing at me late at night…

Once peach season wound down I was determined to wrangle that cotton into submission. It was either figure it out or cut it off. With 540 ends of 8 1/2 yard warp giving up wasn’t an option, so I had to make it work. A fellow weaver graciously offered to come over to help me beam on – I can’t tell you how grateful I was for the offer of backup.

Finally beamed on!

Before she could ride to my rescue I struck upon the idea of combing with an actual comb. We’ve all been taught to comb the threads with our fingers, but that just wasn’t cutting it in this instance. See the twist in those ends? Imagine 8 1/2 yards of that grief. I picked up a variety pack of plastic combs from Target and had another go at the recalcitrant warp. The wide-spaced comb worked like a charm. In a matter of a few hours I managed to work the tangles out and beam on most of the warp on my own. Victory!

I breathed a sigh of relief when I was finally able to start working on this project after so many months. These are simple waffle weave towels of 10/2 cotton sett at 24 epi in a 12 dent reed, which I thought was the perfect project to become familiar with my new loom. There’s enough complexity to keep me engaged with the process, and the length of the fabric will allow me to get comfortable with the quirks every loom has. This 8 towel project addresses a lot of things I’ve wanted to work on. Plus, some of them will make great holiday gifts. I bet the family will appreciate them along with the home made jams I always send.

Tied on to the front apron rod

Waffle weave draft

It’s kind of embarrassing as a weaver to have commercial towels around the house. I haven’t worked with cotton since I took weaving classes, so this has been a learning experience. I’m used to the elasticity of my handspun wool & wool blend projects. The cotton is pretty unforgiving, and requires different handling.

One of the new techniques I’m employing with these towels is the use of a temple. Temples keep the warp spread out at the fell line, and prevent the fabric from drawing in. This reduces friction in the reed and prevents abrasion of the selvedge threads, which is a consideration for work with cotton and other fibers without elasticity. It also makes for better selvedges. I think it helps with my beating, since I can be a little too strong in that area. In my initial weaving classes, after I made a few bullet proof mug rugs, Judy forbid me from even using the word ‘beat’. I ‘gently place’ the beater instead +grin+ She said I would make a great rug weaver.

Gentle but effective

Alligator clip

Traditional temples with sharp teeth can leave holes in the fabric. The goods one are also a bit pricey. I decided to try a different kind of temple I’d heard about – using alligator clips with weights. Simple to make, inexpensive, and infinitely adjustable with different weights. I stopped by one of the many local outdoor stores and picked up some tarp clips, normally used to attach them without coming off or tearing the tarp at the point of attachment.

Clip in action

Spinners always have extra bobins lying around

I was ready to go after adding some cotton to hang the weights from. What to use for weights? Well, as a dedicated spinner I have may a few extra bobbins around the house, so I used those. They were handy and saved me a trip to the hardware store for real weights. I strung some cords from the front to the back of my loom to drape the weight strings, and was ready to go.

This makeshift temple is working beautifully. My warp is being held out at the appropriate width, and I haven’t broken any selvedge threads. Replacing them part way through a project can be a pain. I’ve perfected a one-handed method of moving each clip, so they aren’t slowing my weaving down appreciably. I’ll definitely continue using this tool.

-the redhead-

Towel progress

October 28, 2011

Note to self

Dear Self –

You have been sooo good with your diet and exercise of late.

Please remember that ‘stopping by Whole Foods to pick up one little thing because it’s on the way home’ following Advanced Reformer class after a day of eating nuts and sticks and things of that nature is a +baaad+ idea. The wandering about in a low blood sugar daze is kinda normal, but did you really need to buy +both+ those slices of Brie & Fig Foccacia? Yes, they +were+ hot out of the oven. Yes, they did smell heavenly. That’s no excuse!

We won’t even talk about the other Whole Foods goodness you brought home…

Love & kisses,

-the redhead-

October 28, 2011

Friday Favorites

Caramel Apple Jam by Hitchhiking to Heaven – I may have to pull the canning pots out one more time.
Apple Spice Cake with Greek Yogurt Icing from Eating Rules – this would be great as cupcakes.
Faux Pumpkin Butter by Canning homemade! – a safe way to get that pumpkin flavor.
Cranberry Mustard by Canning homemade! – I want to do something like this.

Handspun Scarf by Weave Away – weaving with your own handspun rocks.
Yarn Guides from Fleegle’s Blog – one of these might be handy for that big stranded project I dreamed up. Of course, I have to comb, spin, and dye all the yarn first.

Obesity crisis solved – by way of Mark Bittman
Fruit Wash labels – those annoying labels can do something useful

-the redhead-

October 26, 2011

When we last saw our intrepid heroine…

When we last saw our intrepid heroine, she was dangling by her fingernails from a precipice!

Ready to go

Remember this? In February I had just finished refurbishing my floor loom, reassembled her, and was working on a cotton towel project. Click for larger images. I had measured off the 540 ends of 8 1/2 yard warp on my warping mill. Have I mentioned how much I appreciate this nifty tool? If I had to do this warp on the warping board it would have taken forever. It makes measuring a large warp +so+ much quicker, and my shoulder doesn’t ache from measuring back and forth standing at the board. In August I wound a 750 end silk warp in just a couple of hours. The warp chains then went on the front beam for warping front to back. This is the warping method I learned from Judy in weaving class, and the only one I’ve used. I have all of Peggy Osterkamp’s books, but haven’t tried warping from back to front yet. Maybe picking up her DVD will inspire me to make the leap. The astute among you will notice a departure from the warping method we were taught by Judy – I’m using lease sticks +gasp!+ I feel so daring. Many projects have been warped while holding the cross in my hand, but I’m firmly a lease stick user now. A few years ago at a Spinning for Weaving workshop Judith encouraged us to use them, and I haven’t looked back. It’s great to be able to stop at any point during warping without worry. Especially when I’m working with 500+ warp threads.

Measuring on the warping mill

Warp chains

Sleying the reed from below

Safety knots

Threading the heddles

I decided to use a trick I learned relatively recently on this project – sleying the reed from below. I found this easier than doing it straight up. I just laid the reed on the beam & race and pulled each set of 2 threads down through the reed. I’m definitely sticking with this method in the future. Threading the heddles for anything other than straight draw is always the most…interesting part of the process. I’ve color coded the heddles on each shaft to help keep track. This waffle weave threading is a simple 6 thread repeat, so I slipped into the zone. Green, blue, red, blue, green, white. Rinse and repeat. It’s important to pay attention, because if you drift off the threading could go awry. Nothing is more entertaining than finding a mistake in the middle of your warp and having to redo part of the threading. Once I had everything threaded I tied on to the back apron rod. Usually, once everything is sleyed and threaded, beaming on is a simple process. Hah! not with this project. The twist in the cotton was causing my warp groups to twist and snarl. Not just a little bit that I could comb out with my fingers, as I do with so many other projects. Noooo, they were twisting and sticking A LOT. The evil warp threads were conspiring against me with every turn! I couldn’t beam on more than a couple of inches at a time, and even that little bit may have involved some unladylike words. I’ve never had such trouble with a warp. Eventually I got so discouraged I gave up on it, thinking I needed to bribe someone to come beat the warp into submission a bit of assistance to beam the 8 1/2 yards on. That’s where we were left dangling. -the redhead-

October 25, 2011

Preserves In Practice – Spiced Peach Butter over Yogurt

Spiced Peach Butter on Yogurt

This is why I canned 30 pints of peach butter. My healthy breakfast of Spiced Peach Butter and blueberries over Fage Fat Free Greek Yogurt. Tasty, inexpensive, high protein, low sugar, no fat, lots of fruit – how can you beat that? It also makes a great desert.

-the redhead-

October 24, 2011

Poll – How long does it take your canning jars to seal?

I’ve been wondering about other people’s experiences regarding jars sealing. The literature says sealing can take 12 hours or more. My jars usually ping within 5 minutes, and I’ve keep a sharp eye on the couple jars that didn’t seal inside 10 minutes over the past few years. Fortunately everything sealed by the 15 minute mark, although those jars were marked and used first. I’d be…nervous if it took many hours. I, however, can at altitude. Do you all have different sealing times?

How do you test your seals? My ultimate test is removing the rings and lifting the jars by their lids.

-the redhead-

October 22, 2011

Rock Day 2012 Project and NYS&W (Rhinebeck) results

I’ve finally gotten a bit of a start on my Rock Day project. Every spring members of the monthly spin-in at Shuttles sign up for fleece from our local Estes Park Wool Festival, and then create projects starting from that raw fleece. The finished projects are then showed off, fondled, and discussed at our annual Rock Day potluck in January. Maggie is also gracious and puts them on display in the shop. It’s always educational and fun to see how everyone has worked with the fiber and their unique projects. Click for larger images.

Fleece locks

CVM/Teeswater/Wenslydale fleece

As usual, we are all behind. The lovely CVM / Teeswater / Wenslydale from Evelyn Whitley, with it’s bold crimp and lovely luster, was a no-brainer for me. I’m usually a fine fiber gal, but this fleece is just gorgeous. I used one of her CVM/Teeswater fleeces (Pearl) for last year’s Rock Day project, and ended up purchasing that fleece again this year. But Pearl will have to wait, as I need to get a start on this project first. I might have a few more projects in the pipeline before I get to that fleece…

Sorting it into shades

Combing the fleece

My Rock Day fleece is washed & sorted into 8 shades, and I’ve started combing it. The locks are 6+” long after washing, which means I could put them on my 4-pitch LaniCombs. I still have a few hours of work to do before I can start spinning it up, but at least I’m on my way. One should never mess with a spinner – we have wool combs and we know how to use them! The longest tines on this set are over 7″ long.

I have a vision of a woven lap blanket / shawl with some nice striping for this fiber, but that could change and I work with it. I only started with 2 lbs. of the fleece, so I hope to have enough. I’ll do a bit of test spinning to get a feel for the best twist for this fiber.

Pulling sliver

On another fiber related note, I was brave this year and sent several skeins off to the Skein and Garment competition at the New York Sheep & Wool Show (Rhinebeck). 11 ribbons out of 13 skeins isn’t too bad… I’m pretty pleased with my results as this is one of the largest yarn shows in the country, with some stiff competition. In some classes where I entered multiple skeins I brought home more than one ribbon – for example I won 1st & 2nd in the Laceweight class, and was 1st with the burgundy mohair lock yarn & 3rd with the laceweight silk singles in the Exotic Fibers class. Note to self – next year send some 3-ply yarns.

It’s good to get some feedback from places other then the wild west. The judging sheets are a little confusing because they don’t have class numbers on them, but the general trend is good. I received several scores of 65 or above, out of 70. I think they forgot to put my $109 winnings in the box, but I’m sure they will pop it in the mail to me.

-the redhead-

My skeins did well at Rhinebeck

October 19, 2011

Swap dinner & a little bit of teaching

My all swap dinner - chicken rice soup, artisan crackers, arugula pesto, and pumpkin butter

I’m enjoying the fruits of my trading after the Mile High Swappers event last weekend. My Sunday evening dinner consisted solely of items I bartered for. Joe’s wholesome and warming Chicken & Rice soup (perfect for an autumn evening) was accompanied by Julia’s elegant crackers and Alfred’s intriguing Arugula Pesto, with Julia’s spicy Pumpkin Butter for desert. All home made with care from the freshest ingredients. It was a lovely remembrance of the swap. I broke out the nice ceramic dinnerware pieces for this feast.

The benefits I gain from this newfound group will be ongoing. I get to sample a delicious plethora of items created by other foodies and preservers, and will appreciate the taste of summer in the depths of winter. I’ve hidden the lovely peach chutnies and tomatillo salsa at the back of my shelves for the cold, snowy days when I need a pick-me-up.

A fellow food swapper, a soon-to-be swapper, and I enjoyed the bounty of our bartering on Sunday. It was Patty’s birthday, so we presented her an angel food cake with Blackberry Peach jam filling. The cake was transformed to sublime with the addition of Bourbon Salted Caramel sauce and Blackberry liquor. Definitely not something we could find at a local bakery or restaurant.

The intent of our little get together was a fiber pursuits. We are all working on our Rock Day projects, and I had promised Patty a combing lesson. Combing the locks of fleece separates the shorter fibers and trash, of which there is very little on the top quality, coated fleeces we favor, from the longer ones. The long fibers are then made into a airy sliver (commonly known as combed top but much nicer than the commercial prep) by using a diz. With a clean fleece the short fibers left behind can be carded and used for other projects. Click for larger images.

Patty got the hang of combing quickly

We arrived with all the necessary items – several sets of combs of varying sizes and pitches, a multitude of C-clamps, and washed fleece to work with. And, of course, the cake. It might have been a little overkill that between 2 of us we brought over 5 sets of combs, but that’s how we roll.

Unlike some of the gentler aspects of fiber pursuits, combing is something you want to do correctly and safely. No joke – wool combs are very sharp and they can bite. While there are people who use a comb in each hand, I’m an advocate of clamping one comb to the table and moving the other with your dominant hand for several reasons. Yes, even for minicombs. First, and most importantly, I think it’s safer. Having only one of the dangerous objects in motion is a good place to start. It reduces the likelihood you might get blood on the fiber… Other important safety notes are tie your long hair back and no loose sleeves – either of those could inadvertently get caught up in the tines. Second, I find it easier to work this way. When wielding two combs, you end up pulling against yourself with your own upper body strength. Which can quickly become tiring, especially for some of us lightweight gals. While I can squat almost 4 times my body weight (years of riding), I’m a lightweight when it comes to bench press and other upper body stuff. I go to the gym for a workout – I comb fiber for fun. Also keep in mind the bigger your combs, the more they weigh. My 4-pitch Lani Combs weigh in at almost a pound and a half each. Even that can get heavy when I’m trying to comb several pounds of fiber. Finally, this is the way I learned, and I haven’t discovered a way which works better for me.

Combers in motion

Also, please make sure you have an updated tetanus inoculation when playing with the pointy toys.

Patty is a natural – she was combing right a long in no time. We all prepped some lovely sliver, and it was a fun and productive afternoon. And we had cake +smile+

-the redhead-

Patty's prizes

October 17, 2011

My first swap with Mile High Swappers

My jams, roasted red pepper spread, and almonds

I went to my first swap with Mile High Swappers on a lovely summer day at Cure Organic Farm. Yes, yes, it is mid-October, but no one was complaining about the last day of our Indian Summer. I had a great time meeting a group of interesting people who brought wonderful foods to trade.

I love the idea of trading artisan food goodies with other people, and do so as often as I can. I’ve made some great swaps with folks from the Farmer’s market, and others. This local food swap was right up my alley. I even convinced fellow spinner/weaver/canner Patty to bring some of her items and come along for the fun.

I was a newbie, so wasn’t sure how the whole program worked. I was very excited, and a bit nervous. What should I take? Would people like my jams? Was I bringing enough? Would the samples work out okay? Did I fill my sheets out correctly? Should I make pretty hang tags?

I was one of the first to arrive. Ann from Cure had graciously set up some tables for us under their permanent awnings – it’s a wonderful site for this kind of event. A side bonus is easy access to the Cure Farm Store – they have sunchokes! I hope we have future events there.

As other people arrived we were treated to a wide variety of lovely food items. For awhile I was afraid I had brought too much! Eve was a great hostess, ensuring everyone was comfortable at the event. The basic process is simple – after everyone lays out their goodies, the first hour is dedicated to mingling, sampling, and bidding on your favorites. What should you bid in return for those preserves you want so badly? Will the chef want what you have to offer? The drama! I had to counsel myself that I didn’t need one of +everything+… Sampling is definitely a high point of the event +smile+ There was a reason I’d limited myself my beloved Fage Fat Free Yogurt that morning. After that that hour the swapping begins! It was a flurry of people running about clutching bid sheets, tossing out tempting offers for all the goodness we had previously enjoyed. No money involved – just good, old fashioned swapping. I was relieved that people bid on my jams and sundries.

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It was a very social event, including a great deal of conversation about our foodie endeavors, how things were made, and learning about each other. I was fun to get together with like-minded people and hear about their approaches to food. I was fortunate to learn a bit about foraging from Wendy, using lavender in preserves from Julia, got a hot tip on the best place to go berry picking, and had a fun discussion about my flavor pairing inspirations – it was informative as well as fun.

The food itself was fabulous! Amy’s Bourbon Salted Caramel Sauce was undoubtedly the hit of the party, but everything looked wonderful. I had to have some of Jennifer’s tomatillo salsa and Engrid’s Pear and Vanilla preserves. It was a bummer that I didn’t get a jar of Joe’s Chicken & Rice soup, but then someone was very kind to me and traded their jar for some jam. Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner! I counted myself lucky when Claire had a jar of Peach Chutney ‘left over’ at the end of swapping.

Eve’s daughter was +adorable+, and she liked my jams. How could I say no when Eve asked if I would swap some pumpkin seeds for her ‘daughter’s favorite jam’?

My wonderful haul

Here are all the lovely items I came home with. I’m excited to have such a variety of tasty items in the pantry and fridge. I hope everyone enjoys the jams and roasted red pepper sauce I traded with them. Sadly, I missed out on the pickles.

I’m already looking forward to next month’s swap. I have big plans, including another batch of Blackberry Habanero jam. Perhaps I’ll work on some more roasted almond recipes between now and then.

-the redhead-

October 13, 2011

Poll – To ring, or not to ring, that is the question…

To ring, or not to ring, that is the question…
Whether ’tis nobler on the shelf to suffer
The bands and seals of outrageous storage,
Or to take arms against the sea of rings,
And by opposing remove them?

Are you a ringer? Why or why not? Leave a comment about your approach to the situation.

My mom was a big ring person while I was growing up. Every jar had a band. One of my jobs was counting everything to make sure there were enough lids and rings to go around before we fired up the canner.

I’m a ringless gal. Oh, the rebellion! I have a set of bands I reuse throughout the season for canning, but everything in the basement is sans band.

Now, if I could just find a better way to store my extensive ring collection…

-the redhead-

October 12, 2011

October Unprocessed & my jams, tart cherry butter sauce

October Unprocessed proceeds apace, tho I did indulge in some of Maggie’s famous cookies at spinning & knitting Monday evening. I know that she uses chocolate chips and probably a bit of flour in her oatmeal, cranberry, and chocolate chip cookies, but they are home made. I certainly wasn’t going to turn down that goodness over a few chocolate chips & a bit of flour. They were +so+ good, especially after having dutifully turned them down for the past 3 months. Yum!

The October Unprocessed Challenge does illuminate an aspect of my canning, however, that doesn’t fit the strictest definitions of ‘unprocessed’.


This is the culprit that falls into the grey area. Crystallized sugar from sugarcane in the form we are familiar with has been produced for centuries, long before new world refining plants, bleaching, and sugar futures. I’m sure the ancient processing methods were something we could accomplish ourselves.

The standard white sugar we are exposed to so much is made from sugarcane or sugar beets, which are put through a variety of exciting processes (phosphatation, carbonatation, bleaching) to produce the purest version of the sweetener. Not something I could undertake at home.

I use organic evaporated cane juice for most of my preserves. It’s a nice caramel color, with the slightest hint of molasses flavor, and works well in place of standard sugar. This sweetener is made by passing the whole sugar cane through a set of rollers, then drying the extract into crystals, no extra processing and no additives. A little pricier than the white stuff, but I consider the lower environmental impact and absence of irksome extras well worth the price. I’m fully aware it really isn’t nutritionally any better for us than the normally processed stuff – in the end sugar is sugar. The organic evaporated cane juice work well in my jams and butters, although I did have someone mention that my peach jam wasn’t as brightly colored as theirs. I was devastated… ;)

Local organic ingredients & being home made trumps using sugar every time in my book. The jams & preserves I make are certainly far less processed than anything at the store. I +know+ where the fruit comes from, and have often had lovely chats with the growers on Saturday mornings at the market. Some of my ingredients come from folks I know well. They include a bit of Colorado summer and my own elbow grease – how can you beat that? I feel my preserves fit the spirit of the October Unprocessed Challenge well.

For the challenge Andrew has an exquisite understanding of human nature, encouraging everyone to participate to the extent they are able. Which includes the ‘deliberate exception’ clause.

Also, a note regarding the “deliberate exception” clause: The idea is to decide on any exceptions before we start, if possible. It’s not there for you to use your exceptions as a way to cheat in the moment. Instead, it’s about making an informed decision, in advance, about a particular food. ~ Andrew Wilder

The ingredients I use my preserves were one of my considered exceptions. I wasn’t about to stop canning!

Speaking of canning, I’ve been making tart cherry sauce this week. I used to call it tart cherry BUTTER, but since I don’t cook it down that much it’s really a sauce. Either way, it reminds me of my childhood. The wonderful flavor is just the thing to brighten up my fat free greek yogurt. There are several growers on the Western Slope who raise pie cherries, which I was fortunate to find at the Farmer’s Market a few years ago. I buy the pitted, frozen cherries in 9 lb buckets which live in the freezer until canning time.

Tart Cherry Sauce

Tart Cherry Sauce

DATE: 10/11/11
FRUIT: 18 lbs frozen, pitted tart cherries
SOURCE: farmer’s market
RECIPE: see below
YIELD: 17 pints, 2 half pints (reg.), 1 quarter pint (fair)
TASTE: very cherry

The incredibly simple recipe:


9 lbs pitted tart cherries (enough to fill 7 qt. crockpot)
4 cups sugar

Grind or prepare cherries in food processor.

Fill 7 qt. crockpot with prepared cherries.

Add sugar. I suggest adding when crockpot ½ full & mix often as you add rest of the cherries.

Bring up to heat on high setting for ~ 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Turn down to medium.

Rest lid of crock pot on something to allow steam to escape. I use skewers, but butter knives will work as well. Cover area crockpot is on to avoid spatters.

Cook on low or medium heat for 6 –12 hours, until desired consistency. Smooth with an immersion blender.

Ladle into hot pint jars with ¼” headspace.

Wipe jars and rims.

Close with 2 piece lids. Do not overtighten.

Hot water bath process for 20 mins @ 5000 ft. Adjust as necessary.

Yields ~ 8 pints (8 oz jars).

-the redhead-

October 9, 2011

Symphony & a perfect canning day

Last night I had a great time at the symphony. How often do you get to sing along, clap, and dance at the symphony? We are very lucky to have the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra right here in town, lead by critically acclaimed Music Director Michael Butterman. In his 6 seasons with The Phil, he’s energized our orchestra and classical music scene with innovative programming and vibrant guest soloists.

Last night’s program was Music of the Beatles, featuring the Beatles cover band Classical Mystery Tour. The twist was, of course, they performed with the full orchestra, which added a new depth and presence to the cherished standards. This wasn’t a cheesy show tune performance – it’s was the original orchestrations of the songs we know and love, enhanced by our wonderful orchestra. The house was packed with folks from 5 to 85 including many families, and everyone enjoyed the show. I was glad to see so many high school and college students there – more than the usual music students. The encore of Twist & Shout had the entire audience, young and old, on it’s feet singing & dancing. I’ve never heard whistling at the symphony before.

Hot food in hot jars

Yesterday was cold and rainy in The People’s Republic, a drastic change from the Indian Summer we have been enjoying. I swear I saw a few snowflakes mixed in. I admit I skipped the Farmer’s Market for once, in favor of other things. It was the perfect day for canning, unlike all those hot, hot August days I spent bonding with my peaches. One long day of canning it was over 95 sweltering degrees in my kitchen by the time I was done. Yesterday I made up some Blackberry Habanero jam, using the lovely homegrown blackberries Patty shared with me.

I'm in love with my food mill!

I am a seedless jam kinda gal, so the most important step is deseeding the berries. I used to do this the old fashioned way, which was tough on my wrists and took forever. Last year I invested in a food mill to facilitate my canning. I never quite got around to using it for tomatoes, but it’s come in very handy for my jams. It does a bang up job, much more quickly and easily than before – a bit of turning and I’m good to go. Sure, a few seeds made it through the food mill’s screen, but the jam comes out so much smoother than if I hadn’t taken the extra step. I wasn’t a big fan of berry jams as a kid because of all the seeds. No crunchy peanut butter, no crunchy jam… Now I can make it exactly the way I like +smile+. Click for larger images.

Blackberry Habanero jam

Blackberry Habanero Jam

DATE: 10/8/11
FRUIT: organic blackberries, organic habaneros
SOURCE: friend, farmer’s market
RECIPE: see below
YIELD: 2 batches = 8 half pints (4 wide, 4 reg), 16 quarter pints
TASTE: Nice and warm. Great with cream cheese & crackers, makes a nice glaze.


4 ½ cups deseeded blackberries (~3 lbs)
5 cups sugar
2 large habanero peppers, chopped
1 tsp lemon juice
1 box Sure Jell regular pectin (yellow)

Deseed ~ 3lb blackberries, which yields ~ 4 ½ cups juice/pulp

Combine blackberries, lemon juice, & peppers, in heavy bottomed sauce pan. Bring to a boil.

Add pectin & boil mixture for 1 min., stirring constantly.

Add all sugar & stir until completely dissolved.

Bring to full, rolling boil for 1 min., stirring constantly.

Remove from heat & skim foam if necessary.

Ladle into hot half pint jars with ¼” headspace.

Close with 2 piece lids. Do not overtighten.

Hot water bath process for 15 mins @ 5000 ft, 10 mins at sea level. Adjust as necessary.

Yields ~ 8 half pints (8 oz jars).

The leftovers

I am, however, left with the pulpy seeds. They still have some blackberry flavor, so I’m hesitant to toss them out. There has to be something I can do with this. Any suggestions?

-the redhead-

October 7, 2011

October Unprocessed Challenge

I stumbled across the October Unprocessed Challenge 2011 through several of the preserving blogs I read. I was intrigued by this, and have been following along for the last week. Andrew at Eating Rules has been blogging his message of healthy eating for a year, starting with his successful October Unprocessed Challenge 2010.

The goal of the challenge to go an entire month without eating processed foods. Sounds simple, right? It’s not so easy in the average American’s diet, which is filled with overly processed foods, fast foods, and ingredients we couldn’t begin to work with in our own kitchens. It means cutting out those easy foods we are inundated with at the grocery store and through the media, and making the effort to eat healthy, whole foods.

“Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.” ~ Andrew Wilder

Andrew believes this will inspire people to change their eating habits in the long run, as they realize they feel better during the challenge.

What is ‘unprocessed’ food? Andrew’s definition from October Unprocessed 2010 starts from the basic premise that you could make it at home. His example there is very enlightening. He uses a really reasonable Kitchen Test, which is that you could grow/produce/create those ingredients. It doesn’t mean you +have+ to, just that you could. I know we don’t all have wonderful farms where we grow our own produce and livestock (some day I’ll get there!), but we do have access to those things. I am an avid consumer at my local farmer’s markets, so I already have many fresh, local items in my kitchen.

Andrew encourages everyone to be more aware of what they eat – read the labels and and think about the ingredients. What is really in that food? How and where was it produced? I personally extend that to considering if it was produced locally. But this isn’t just about one person’s definition. While Andrew has his own vision, he encourages everyone to take the challenge on their own terms.

My definition may not match your definition — and that’s okay. In fact, I encourage disagreement and discussion, since that’s the best way for us to learn together. ~ Andrew Wilder

I admit I had a bit of a jump on this, as I have been making a serious effort to eat better for the last couple of months. Treating myself to lots of goods fruits & veggies and lean, organic chicken, beef, and a bit of fish. As a result I’ve attained a BMI of 21. This challenge is a great motivation to keep up the good work for the rest of the month, and hopefully beyond. I bet I’ll be able to shed those last 3 or 4 pounds along the way. I do, however, miss McDonald’s french fries +sigh+

How could this not be attractive to someone who spins, weaves and knits their own garments starting from raw fleece? To date more than 2,600 people have joined the challenge.

I encourage you to check out the challenge and sign the pledge if this sounds good to you.

-the redhead-

October 4, 2011

Taos Results

My handspun yarn results from the Taos Wool Festival.

Taos Handspun Yarn Show ribbons

-the redhead-

October 3, 2011

Mile High Swappers Boulder October Food Swap

I’m excited to participate in my first food swap with Mile High Swappers. Their upcoming Boulder event will be October 15 @ Cure Organic Farm – here’s the signup link. I’d been trying to organize a local jam & preserves swap for the last couple of years, but wasn’t able to reach out to all the right people. I think this will be just what I was looking for.

Mile High Swappers is a group, like so many across the nation, which hosts food swapping events in Denver, Boulder, and Northern Colorado. At the events locals have the opportunity to swap their homemade or home grown items with like-minded people.

I’m really looking forward to this new experience. I’m sure others will bring some wonderful items, and going to Cure’s Farm store is always a treat. I’ve already set aside a box of jams, including:

– Blueberry Peach Grand Marnier jam
– Peach Habanero jam
– Ginger Vanilla Peach jam
– Blackberry Peach jam
– and some Peach Chocolate Sauce for good measure

I have my fingers crossed that someone brings pickles…

-the redhead-

October 2, 2011

Farmer’s Market Report

As always, I had a great time at the Longmont Farmer’s Market yesterday. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning to stroll the Market and admire all the colorful produce. The scent of roasting chilies filled the air. The Left Hand Boys serenaded us with their wonderful music. An idyllic Saturday morning.

Per my usual routine, I stopped by first thing in the morning. It was great to chat with everyone and see the colorful local produce. I picked up 4 bags of Big Jim chilies for the freezer – still warm from the roaster. Fall is here, and that means squash. There was a rainbow of varieties this week – everything from acorn squash to pumpkins. As the nights get cooler a comforting squash dish hits the spot.

I didn’t get much this week, but couldn’t resist these beauties from Frog Star Farm, grown right there in Longmont. I managed to resist the plum tomatoes, but it was a close thing. They have excellent produce – check them out. I’m having fellow spinners over this afternoon, and will share this bounty with them.

Cherry tomatoes from Frog Star Farm

In the afternoon I went back to help pack up since I didn’t have any afternoon canning on my plate. The Market folks put in a lot of work to provide us with such a wonderful resource and environment, so it only seems right to help out when I can. Lisa, Dr. Audrey, and the gang are amazingly organized, so tear down and storage was a snap. I encourage everyone to help out at your local farmer’s market.

-the redhead-

October 1, 2011

Your best guess & some colorful yarn

Laceweight Rambo

Earlier this week I finished up some Rambouillet laceweight. After hours of intense spinning I finished up the bobbin. Since this was intended for competition singles, I spent quite a bit of time picking off noils and chaff. I’m not normally a singles gal, but give it a whorl for yarn shows. I ended up with 1.6 oz/46 g of skinny little singles. For a little fun I invite you to guess how many yards in this skein (click for larger images). I’ll post the answer in a few days.

How many yards on the bobbin?

Starting a completely different symphony, I also made some very crazy yarn. Being a lace specialist, I have to work a bit at spinning other things. In this case I decided to go to the other end of the spectrum – fat, colorful, and a bit wild. Go big or go home! I don’t think I could have gotten any further away from natural laceweight singles than I did with this loud lock yarn.

Curly mohair lock yarn

The base color is more burgundy than the flash shows, although there are some reds, rusts, and lighter shades of the base color in there along with the blue. Rather than going the with the somewhat standard approach of spinning the locks onto one ply and then plying back with another binder, I spun this by entrapping the locks between two binder threads all in one operation. Which was a good approach for me, as doing it this way was fiddly enough – doing it twice would have been over the top. I think this approach kept the locks in good formation, rather than being fuzzed up by multiple trips through the wheel. An unexpected bonus is finally using the standard head on my Lendrum – which was still in the plastic after all these years.

Spinning this yarn was a lot of fun in many ways – I was able to exercise my color sense and work in a complex structure. The bright locks are a whole lot of fun. I can have a quick game of ‘Which one of these things is not like the others’ in the yarn closet. The prep and spinning, however, were pretty fiddly. Separating out the individual locks was not very exciting, taking several hours. I have to admit that some of the prep and spinning time was because I wanted everything just right. The final result is a 20 yard skein of 2.3oz/67g. This novelty yarn has a good structure, and will knit up well. I checked each lock to make sure they wont pull out.

A blowout on my bobbin!

Only 20 yards?? Well, I was a little disappointed at that too. It seemed like there should be more for all that work. But the yarn is big and flashy, so it’s all good in the end. 20 yards is still enough to make a hat, which I think will go well with my own curly red locks. It will be a good addition to the crazy hat collection +smile+

-the redhead-

September 29, 2011

Swaping with fellow canners

Swapping things with fellow preservers is so much fun. I’ve fallen is with the good crowd at the Boulder and Longmont Farmer’s Markets, as well as several other people, many of whom make marvelous preserves and other hand made or home grown items. It gives us all the opportunity to fill in the holes – I make jams, other people make pickles and chutnies.

I’ve been trading preserves with Dr. Audrey. She helps run the Longmont Market, so I get to see her every weekend +smile+ A few weeks ago she gave me a beautiful jar of Saffron Zucchini pickles, with the caveat they still needed to mature. I had to hide them away in the basement to give them time, because every time I admired the jar I wanted to pop it open and have a snack. In a bit of canning kismet, she handed me a jar from jam I had gifted to her two years ago!

My old label

Aren't these Saffron Zucchini pickles gorgeous?

Last weekend she shared a couple of her newest preserves – Cardamom Pear butter and Pickled Cauliflower. I’m a big fan of pickled cauliflower, so this jar won’t last long.

Cardamom Pear Butter & Pickled Cauliflower

I’m looking forward to further swaps, as there are so many things I didn’t put up this year. I’m secretly hoping someone out there has too many pickles…

-the redhead-

September 24, 2011

Working with some lovely fiber

After the last batch of Blueberry Peach Grand Marnier jam on Monday, I gave myself the rest of the week off from canning – so I’ve been spinning instead. It’s very relaxing to kick back in the evenings with some lovely fiber. As a side bonus, spinning is +far+ less messy than canning. I get a great deal of satisfaction out of making jams, and will really appreciate it come the dead of winter, but having to clean up afterwards is not so much fun. I’m not one of those super neat chefs from the Food Network. I would probably can more if I had a Kitchen Scrubbing Fairy.

Brown Alpaca/Tussah Silk blend

As a treat to myself I’ve been working with some luscious fibers. I guess I shouldn’t have to bribe myself to spin, but it’s a good excuse to pull some nice stuff out of the collection. I picked this blend up from a Colorado co-op at the Estes Park Wool Festival a few years ago. Now that the fiber has had the change to age properly, it was time to create something exciting. Okay, so maybe it was really on the top of the bin for easy access…

The 70% alpaca / 30% Tussah Silk roving (click for larger images) is a joy to work with. The feel of the silk in my hands is just what the doctor ordered for a bit of fun. The sheen of the silk is exciting, and the chunky blend of fiber really adds a lot of visual character to the final yarn. I also appreciate it because it steers me out my comfort zone – very even laceweight. Not to worry, we’ll get to the usual suspect in a minute.

Singles on the bobbins

In another effort to step outside my spinning box, I decided to make fat yarn. I’m one of those spinners whose work gets finer and finer if I don’t pay attention, so I have to work at thicker yarn. The finished product is a nice sport weight at about 14 wpi (wraps per inch). Considering my default singles run between 30 – 50 wpi, this is real progress. Maybe I’ll have a go at some thick and thin novelty yarn next.


Ooooohhh - pretty, shiny!

I’m not sure what I’m going to create with this yet. Right now I’m just enjoying this yarn as is. Often my spinning is about the process, not the final project. Enjoying the moment is more important than worrying about what to do with the yarn. Spinning can be a bit meditative for me. I also get the chance to catch up on all the shows on my DVR. I’m sure I’ll put this yarn on the loom one way or another, as this yarn doesn’t have enough elasticity for a knitted item.

Now, onto my ‘usual’ stuff. I couldn’t resist doing a bit of laceweight after all. Big surprise there. Once I finished playing with the brown blend, I moved into my wheelhouse. This fiber is from a local Rambouillet fleece I bought at Estes one year. This is one of those projects that’s better to complete in a single shot to maintain the rhythm and flow for an even result. I have a couple more hours to put in tonight on these singles – it’s taking forever to get this 1 1/2 ounces done!

Okay, my break is over. Back to the salt mines…

-the redhead-

Laceweight Rambouillet

September 22, 2011

Jam Swap

Every year Steph Chows sponsors a home made jam exchange. This year over 100 jammers from around the world shared our kitchen konkotions with each other.

I was very lucky this year, and received some lovely jams from Beth Anne in the midwest (where I am originally from). Exchanges are so much fun. These jars fit right in, as I only use the Kerr Wide Mouth Half Pints for my personal stash.

Blueberry Lime & Piña Colada Jams

I haven’t opened the Piña Colada jam yet, but the color is wonderful. It glows in the sunlight. I bet this will be used when I have folks over next weekend. We may have a little jam tasting.

The soft set Blueberry Lime jam is wonderful. I’m going to put this over a rare treat – Belgian waffles. I don’t get to enjoy waffles very often, and this will make them extra special.

I sent Beth Anne Ginger Vanilla Peach and Blackberry Peach jams.

-the redhead-

Blackberry Peach & Ginger Vanilla Peach jams

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