Shop at Spinner's End Farm

Monday, April 23, 2012

200th post giveaway

I just realized that the MCACA post was the 200th post on this site!  We should celebrate N'est pas??

First though, here is what has been going on in our neck of the woods.

Eggs!  Of all sizes and shapes. 
The first one is a "hiccup" egg which was wee tiny and weighed .41 ounces.
The middle egg is your average egg (darn- forgot to weigh it!).
The third egg was an 'I can believe she survived that" egg.  It was 3.47 ounces.  Double yolked and huge!

We found another hiccup egg by the waterer that was almost round.  The first one was found there too, like when the hen bends over the wee thing just pops right out...a "what was that??" moment.

Pork!  From my friend Sara's farm. 
Yummy organic goat milk fed pig (she has dairy goats too and evidently an excess of milk).
These pork chops were pan cooked in Marsala wine, garlic (ours), thyme, salt and pepper.  A slightly modified recipe from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"; a must have cook book.

There are now TWENTY pounds of home grown bacon in our freezer.  I'm giddy!

Fiddle lessons! 
Once a week, our friend Jeff is teaching Lila the rudiments of handling her fiddle....

and squeaking out some notes on it also.  Practice Practice Practice!

Garden expansion!  Will is connecting all of the beds in the front yarn adjacent to the front pasture.  I need to get out there and figure out how much space that is big!  There are perennial beds scattered amongst the veggies and it is a lovely sight in the summer.

He has had a consistant helper...this Auracana hen follows him around and picks out any beetle larvae, worms or ants he might drop out of those clods of sod.  It is very funny to watch her out there.

So, that leads us to the 200th post giveaway!

I'd like to give someone luxury fiber samples to give a whirl on their spinning wheel or drop spindle.  Or, for a non-spinning winner some bamboo knitting needles to try out.  Just leave a comment on this post by Monday April 30th.  On May 1st I will select a winner using a random number generator!

We may also have a litter of guinea pigs by then as well....

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thank You MCACA!

Awhile back I mentioned that my friend Susan and I had received a grant from Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) in order to offer an after school arts enrichment class in the Fiber Arts at the Three Lakes Academy (TLA). 
 The class has come to a close and I have a few things I'd like to share about it.

The idea of providing a hands on fiber arts experience to a small group of children who would then inturn expose a multitude of others was the original intent of the project.  The grant money was used to provide expertise, equipment, and supplies which can also be used in the classroom by TLA staff and thier students.  TLA will have the support of the project directors and our local spinning and weaving group to help keep tradional skills alive.

The class met weekly for two hours after school where the children learned about the history and science of wool; making yarn on a drop spindle; wet felting; natural and chemical dyeing; introduction to knitting; introduction to weaving on lap looms, rigid heddle looms and potholder looms; and basket weaving.  Everyone at least tried to do the project and had good attitudes even when frustrated.

It wasn't all rosy; we took on more topics than we or the kids could hanlde in such a short time frame.  The schedule was pretty rigorous and demanding of an attention span that was taxed after being in school all day.  We took a survey of all the participants after the class was over and they gave us wonderful feedback about what they liked and didn't like so much and where they would have liked to have spent more time.  This will be useful for future classes.  The most encouraging thing was every child wanted to continue with some aspect of the class.

Many people volunteered their time to make the project a sucess; the school administrator, her assistant, adult volunteers who came to each and every class, and our local spinning and weaving guild who helped out with advice and labor.   Portage township provided the class space at no charge, the Manistique Lions Club matching grant funds for the project, and the Erickson Center for the Arts provided encouragement, grant support and much needed and helpful advice.


Sucess of the project can be viewed in many ways; items produced by the children include hand woven market baskets, tapestries woven on a loom (many still in progress!), small quantities of yarn spun on a drop spindle, yarn hand dyed by each child, a swatch of knitting or knitted item, wet felted pouches, and the ubiquitous potholder.  Non-material measures include an increase in self confidence, dexterity, hand-eye coordination, team work, responsibility, and new found artistic abilities and skills.  These are priceless discoveries for children and adults alike.

The children's work from the Fiber Arts class will be displayed and hands on demonstrations given at a school wide learning fair in May.  In addition, students will be recruited to help out with demo's and learning events at the second annual Ewe-per Fiber Fair on July 7th in Curtis.  Most importantly, the students that took the class volunteered to be mentor for other students learning the fiber arts at TLA and take a great deal of pride in their accomplishements.

I'm very proud of them all!

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Roosters have departed

Last week was spring break for the kids.  The lovely weather we had the week before that was sunny and in the 60's and 70's evaporated and we were left with gray weather in the 40's most days.  Still above our average normal temps but not terribly exciting spring break weather.  There were trips to the library, a trip to the movies, and general mayhem at home.

Both of the boys were begging for cooking "lessons" so meals took longer to prepare, but it was great fun.  Here is one shot of Duncan helping out with dinner after a shower.  He is getting rather long-legged and outgrowing his bathrobe!

The biggest news over this week was....we finally butchered the four speckled sussex X buff orpington roosters.  They were SO handsome and pretty nice roosters, but five Roo's around the house is a few too many.  They were beating up their poor father Goldy (who is a sweet old guy) and starting to run the hens ragged so "something" had to be done.

Backtrack:  I just realized I never told the story of this clutch of chicks.  Last August, while in New Hampshire, the speckled sussex hen (yes, the same one), laid a clutch of 14 eggs hidden in plain sight under an apple tree in the back yard.  We discovered the nest the first part of September accidentally because I heard some wee peeping noises and finally saw her in the grass at the base of the tree where she was happily sitting on pipping eggs.  Ten of the fourteen eggs hatched, which left us with ten brand new chicks just before the weather turned....(long story short- new coop in the backyard made from our neighbor's fishing shanty...true Yooper coop!).  Four of those ten were roosters.

We put it off until Sunday (fortunately the weather was cool and perfect) mid afternoon.  Neither Will nor I had ever killed or cleaned a chicken before so we were a bit trepidacious about it but all turned out better than we expected.  We used a killing cone on a stand for the grim part, and I skinned the chickens instead of plucking them.  I hate the smell of hot wet feathers and probably wouldn't eat the birds when my strong sense of smell/visual recall kicked in.  Skinning went well as did the gutting...not much holding in all those internal organs!  I have skinned birds before doing study skins and processing ducks (breast meat only) but this was a little more personal since the Roo's were raised here.

These are egg layers, or dual purpose birds, not the mutant cornish cross birds that can't reproduce on their own and that literally eat themselves to death.  The breast meat is darker and not as large, and the legs are much longer, larger and darker. It took them five months to get to this size (and I forgot to weight them).
They sat in a bucket of ice water to cool down and then went into individual bags on ice in the cold garage to cool down gradually before going into the freezer.  Two of the birds had odd breast bones/keels; they had 20-25 degree  bends in the bone (it looks like a zig zag)...perhaps an injury as a chick?

Sam watched the first bird and went inside, a horrified smile on his face.  When we came in after the deed was all done he asked what was for dinner.  I told him we were having spaghetti and he said "Good. Cause Duncan said if we were having a chicken  that he knew, he wasn't eating."  I'm sure they will forget as time goes on...