Monday, September 16, 2019

Short and Bitter Sweet

Well, it's happened again and it's probably no surprise to anyone. The month of August came and went with nary a blog post. None, nada, zip.

Sheesh, not even the gratuitous goat pic.

The sad thing is I'm still outlining stories and I continue to take tons of photographs to accompany the blog post. (5603 photos currently lives on my phone.)

Often times I spend parts of my day thinking about a blog post, planning what the title will be (that's the best part), and I write little snippets of the story on small pieces of paper - lots and lots of small pieces of paper - sometimes when I'm composing the story I smile to myself and occasionally chuckle out loud. Weird, I know. Unfortunately, the stories I plan don't make it out of my head.

Recently SLO Yarns celebrated an Anniversary. It's hard to believe but it's been 7 years since I hit the publish button and the blog went live with the first post. Seven years.

It seems like once I retired - and had all the time in the world - my routines changed and writing a weekly blog post got lost in the transition. But you know, at this time, I'm still not ready for SLO Yarns to disappear into the sunset. Partly because - as you can imagine - my head feels quite a bit cluttered with the hundreds of stories waiting to be told but mostly because writing still gives me joy.

I'll try to do better going forward (she says).

In the meantime, here's a couple of gratuitous goaty pics.





Thursday, July 4, 2019

Slow SLO Yarn

One of my many (oh-so-many) current projects is a slow, long-term Sheep to Shawl project. Long term because I'm learning each step as I go. Slow so I can savor the process.

My Sheep2Shawl project began with an Etsy purchase of one pound of raw CVM/Romeldale fleece from an ewe named Ember. Coming from a cold climate (Minnesota) the wool was covered (coated) which helped to keep it free of large amounts of veggie matter (VM) such as hay and field grass. It was beautiful clean fleece.



Ember's lovely locks.




First I chose the individual locks that were similar in color and length. I stacked them carefully so I knew which ends were the tips and which were the cut ends. I'm starting with the lightest colored locks and will progress to the darker wool as I work through the fleece.




The aligned locks were placed in tulle netting and washed (scoured) with 2 washes and 2 rinses using Unicorn Fiber Power Scour and very hot water. The fleece wasn't too dirty but it was rich with greasy lanolin.




4/25/19, Drying in the sun.




5/2/19, Second batch.




 6/28/19, Third batch.




After the locks are thoroughly dried the tips are brushed open (flicked).




Next, the cut ends are placed oh-so-carefully on the metal tines of the Valkyrie Extra Fine mini combs. It took me a few sessions before I felt comfortable with the sharp combs and I keep them covered or lying sideways when I'm not actively combing, especially when my helpers show up.






The combed wool is then pulled through an object with a tiny hole (diz) to make long strips of ready-to-spin fiber.




A light as air "bird nest".




I wanted to spin my prepped fiber as thinly as possible. I didn't think I could do it on my spinning wheel without wasting a lot of it so I learned from YouTube how to spin on a supported spindle.






One bird nest takes me over an hour to spin.



Right now I'm just spinning a single strand. My lofty goal is to spin a 2-ply yarn for a gradient, natural-colored, knitted rectangular lace wrap or shawl.

7/4/19, Spun to date:





 In the meantime, I'm enjoying every inch, every ounce, every minute of the process.




Happy 4th of July and
Happy Summer Everyone.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Daily Fiber

Lately I've been pretty good about spinning on my Lendrum spinning wheel everyday. I've found that if I sit down to spin first thing in the morning then I can get about 20 minutes of spinning time.




Here's how I do it: I set the kitchen timer for 6 minutes which is how long it takes for the saucepan of water to boil. I start spinning.

When the timer goes off I walk into the kitchen, add the Old Fashioned Quaker Oats and raisins to the boiling water, lower the heat to medium, and reset the timer for another 6 minutes.




After a few moments, I stop spinning and walk back into the kitchen to make sure I did lower the heat and the oatmeal hasn't boiled over out of the pot. Restart the timer.

Restart spinning. When the timer goes off I turn off the stove, stir in a bit of milk and reset the timer for 6 more minutes. During this period the milk warms up and the oatmeal gets nice and creamy (and I get more spin time).




When the timer goes off for the last time I spin for a few more minutes.




Breakfast is ready, I leave the wheel, and my day begins.


 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Daily Bread

This past winter has been rainy, blustery, and cold (ahem, California cold). Perfect baking weather. Remember in December 2017 I made a Sourdough starter from scratch? Since the starter turned a year old it was time to use it.

1/24/19 ~
Strictly Sourdough: On my first attempt to make Sourdough bread I followed along with an online Craftsy class but halved the recipe since I didn't feel too confident. The experience was frustrating for lack of proper tools. I ended up using a spatula for a dough scraper and a metal baking sheet to knead the dough (I thought it would be like a stainless steel countertop, not.) My bad thoughts must have transferred to the bread, it was a sad thing to behold.





1/26/19 - 1/28/19 ~
The second Sourdough loaf was a three-day adventure. I followed Kitchn's Emma Christensen's blog post, "How to Make Sourdough Bread", I especially liked the 63 photo tutorial. The loaf turned out beautiful - look at that crust, look at that crumb - except, you know, three days. Also, instead of making two loaves per recipe I made one giant loaf. I think it weighed 3 pounds. It was a mammoth effort to make and eat.








Sourdough Crackers: I use the "discard" starter to make crackers. I'm still trying to find the sweet spot for rolling out the dough - not too thick, not too thin. When I manage to get it right the crackers poof up into little pillows of crackery goodness. Since it's made with whole wheat flour it's gluten-heavy, lots of healthy dietary fiber. The first bite tastes a bit like cardboard - healthy cardboard - but the more crackers you eat the better it tastes. It kinda grows on you. Really.
























Surprise: Our kitchen cabinetry included a built-in cutting board. The previous owners used it judging by the knife marks on the hardwood surface. I never used it for cutting and mostly forgot it was there other than using it for additional counter space.

But, oh joy. I discovered the good-sized 20 x 16 cutting board provided an excellent portable surface for playing with sticky dough. Yep, just another thoughtful feature in the house that Bob & K. built.




2/15/19 - 2/16/19 ~
Sourdough English Muffins: A good experiment to try, turned out tasty, but I'm not sure I'll be making these again. Ten English muffins probably took five hours of work and twenty minutes (or less) to eat.







Sourdough Saga continues: I wanted a less involved method of making Sourdough bread. I asked myself, "What's my bread goals?"

Bread Goals: 1. Beautiful bread using my wild Sourdough starter.
                      2. Not too time consuming.
                      3. Consistent results.
                      4. Edible (most important).

Bread Machine Magic: I dusted off my 1990's Hitachi Bread Machine, the instruction manual, and my Bread Machine books. From "Bread Machine Magic" by Linda Rehberg & Lois Conway, I found a recipe called, "San Francisco" Sourdough French Bread".



2/16/19 - 2/18/19 ~
I converted the recipe to metric and used my digital scale to measure the bread flour and starter by gram weight. I measured the salt, sugar, and Active Dry Yeast by teaspoon. Active Dry Yeast, yeah, I know, it's no longer strictly Sourdough but hey, remember my goal of "consistent results".

Dough setting (1 hr 40 min), finished last rise wrapped in a floured tea towel and a 2 qt pot. Baked in a Cast Iron Dutch Oven per Kitchn's Emma Christensen instructions step 18 - 24.
























Loaf made in the Hitachi Bread Machine bread setting (4 hr 10 min). The Man said this was the best loaf so far but, hey, it's not pretty, remember Goal #1, "Beautiful bread".



2/21/19 - 2/22/19 ~
Bread Tool: Proofing basket - Banneton, Brotform - whatever you want to call it. It's made out of rattan "cane". I like it.




My friend Sandee suggested using parchment paper to help transfer the dough from the proofing basket into the smokin' hot (preheated to 500°) Dutch Oven. The parchment paper sling is working nicely, I haven't gotten burned, yet. By the way, the Dutch Oven is used to hold the steam in for the first 35 minutes of baking.

2/21/19 ~
This bread machine dough was created with a 24-hour leaven, it was supposed to be more flavorful/sour. The Man and I couldn't really tell the difference though it did seem a bit chewier. The Man called it "rubbery", in a good way, I think.




Better Bread: I think I have finally gotten my basic Sourdough bread-making figured out. The bread machine works the dough first (1 hr 40 min), when the machine beeps I do some fancy hand movements with the dough to firm it up into a tight ball (5-10 minutes), then plop it into the proofing basket, and let it sit overnight in the fridge. I bake the next day (45 min). Oh, and it's strictly wild sourdough now, no additional Active Dry Yeast.

Almost daily bread:

 4/9/19 ~



4/13/19 ~
The "discard" dough does not go to waste. Whole wheat crackers and Grissini (Italian Bread Sticks).




 4/15/19 ~




 ✓Bread goals met.


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Passing Time

Time spent with a cat is never wasted. Colette

 





Happy New Year, 2019.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

A Kaki Christmas

Merry Christmas Y'all, I hope it's a sweet one for you.

In mid-November our critter-sitter, Karen, sent me an email:

since you bake a lot (and i have been remiss in thanking you for the goodies you leave for us) are you interested in persimmons?

the tree is loaded, not all big ones but thousands.  i've picked a few and am processing them for the freezer.  leaves have fallen off with the below freezing temps we've been having and the birds are finding them now.

to finish ripening them you put them into the freezer for a couple days, when they thaw they are ripe.  i then peel and make pulp in the blender and freeze in containers.

you can have as many as you want to deal with.

I emailed her back quickly, "Yes, we love persimmons!!!"

Karen is right, I do bake a lot but haven't tried persimmons, yet. Instead I love turning persimmons into fruit candy just by drying them in the dehydrator. Our friend Jan shared that tip with us last year. It's amazing how a nasty, mouth-puckering 'Hachiya' persimmon can be transformed by drying. The astringent taste disappears and only sweetness remains. Magic.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving The Man, The Man's Mom, and I arrived at Karen's to pick her persimmon tree.




The three of us used clippers to snip off the low-hanging fruit and quickly filled up the bins and bags we had brought.








The persimmon tree was still full of fruit as we said our Thanks Yous and Goodbyes. Karen said she expected the birds would take care of the rest of the tree.




It turns out picking the fruit was the quick part. It takes me about two days to process a batch from start to finish.




Twenty firm fruit, thinly sliced (I use a mandoline), will fill 11 dehydrator trays.




Drying time in the dehydrator is between 8-10 hours.






The hardest part of the whole adventure is trying to remove the dried - but still tacky - fruit without shredding them to tiny bits when they adhere to the plastic trays. Grrrrr.






The ripe persimmons are made into fruit leathers. You know when they're ripe because they feel like water balloons about to burst. They're squishy, sweet, and delicious at this stage. Tip: stand over the sink, grab a spoon (or not) and eat one, it's a burst of flavor.




To make the fruit leathers the innards are scooped out, blended smooth, and spread out on parchment paper. The peels are saved as a special treat for the Goaties and chickens.
















But wait, there's more.

Our friend Jerry dropped off a bag of 'Fuyu' persimmons. A very big bag: twenty and a half pounds of ready-to-eat sweet fruit.




'Fuyu' persimmons are round and squat and it's the kind you can eat while they're still hard.




The 'Hachiya' which I have been drying is heart-shaped. Psst, if you forget and bite into the wrong one, well, you'll know your mistake immediately. (Face pucker here.)

Japanese persimmon, Diospyros kaki 'Hachiya'