Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fresh bread in 5 minutes... or so

So the photo is a bit blurry as we made these during a thunder storm, but I'm a complete convert to Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois' Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I made a couple of basic boule loaves last week, with beautiful results. Crusty, cracking outsides and lovely steamy soft insides. But these caramel rolls were the real test of the versatility of the method. I mixed up a second batch of the basic boule recipe and then rolled it out into these beauties the next day. I know they'd be even better with the brioche dough, and that will definitely be the next recipe I try. You can tell how good these were by the blurry picture; they didn't last long enough for me to remember to get a better image!

Happy Anniversary to George and Karen, five years!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rainy day: Flowers inside

It's a bit rainy today, so I've taken photos of the lovely flowers that I've been able to bring inside this spring. Does anyone know what this is? It's rather woody, a little gangly, and was covered in those tiny hot pink buds for almost a month before the star-shaped lighter pink ones opened. The flowers are clustered almost like on a hydrangea. Here's a photo of what the whole plant looked like earlier in the spring. *ETA: Mountain laurel! (Maybe kalmia latifolia) Just stumbled across my own answer by accident today.
These are peonies from my grandmother's garden. The beautiful just-pink and yellow one on the left is called raspberry sundae. Isn't that beautiful? Our house is kind of small and not so well-lit, so the counter top beside the sink is the best place to display fleurs. There, I see them often.

Also, Happy Anniversary to my cousin Krista and her husband Brad!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Baby Quilt 1: For a boy

Several of my friends will be first-time mothers this August and September, so I'm trying to get a jump on baby crafting. This quilt will be for the baby boy of a friend who doesn't read this blog too often, so I think it will still be a surprise.
This quilt was inspired heavily by one that Rebekah at don't call me becky dot com made last month. She used charm squares from Moda's Summer in the City line. I really liked the idea of a quilt for a boy with oranges and blues and this brown. Hers is probably a little more baby-friendly, with its more muted colors, but I really love how this one came out. All the oranges and blues came from my stash.
This quilt is my first meandering machine-quilted finished product. It measures about 36 inches square. I can't wait to start on the two quilts for baby girls! For some reason I think those will be harder than this one. I'm not a very girly girl, but I do want to put some pinks and purples in those quilts-- maybe with spring greens and gray?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Coyote and the Tall Grass Buffet*

We've been watching for coyotes for several weeks now, ever since a rainy ride with my mom was cut short by a mama coyote barking and howling and following us down the mountain. Then last week as I was leaving, a huge specimen cut across the driveway right in front of me all catch-me-if-you-can. This isn't my photo (in fact it's a photo of a coyote in California), but this is how they look when they're slinking around, bouncy with little shocks in their feet. Taller than the dog, and faster. I'm not sure what they would do to me and the horse, but I know what they'd try to do to the dog, so I'm trying to stay clear.

The grass at the farm is very high now, so high that the pup is lost in a field, only visible as that rustling up ahead. Coyotes can get lost in this grass, too, invisible until you spot them and can't look away. Yesterday I rode alone in the only field where cows aren't allowed. We call it the hay field for obvious reasons. Josh and I made a little river in the grass-scape, parting the stalks, and Grady wove a smaller creek beside and around us. Josh loves this season, of the grass buffet, when he can bend over every few strides and strip the grasses of their crunchy heads in the middle of his workout. My friend Gillian always says it would be like walking into a field of french fries, growing wild. Taking all that pollen head on, the dog kept sneezing and scaring the horse, but we were making our way.

In the far corner of the field I saw something soft and brown rustle and stand up stock-still, looking our way. The whole ride I was thinking "coyote, coyote, coyote?" in time with my posting trot, but no, this was a fresh baby deer (what we call a "Bambi"), looking at us with huge ears and wet eyes. No bigger than a coyote. In a moment the deer turned and leap, leap, leapt over the coop at the end of the field and into the next one (the "hill field"), trailing her white tail behind her.

I think all three of us smiled. Grady ran and Joshua picked up on the dog's energy and I let him go, a steady gallop around the end and down the other long side of the field. Happy. Not a coyote but a baby deer.

On the walk back to the barn I saw my first red-winged blackbird of the year. And those are the two crystalline moments from yesterday. Today it's raining, but I hope to get outside this afternoon. I also promise there'll be some crafty content soon!

*Is it just me or does that title sound like it should be a Tony Hillerman novel? Hi, Mom.

Monday, May 12, 2008

What do May showers bring?

This was the scene at the farm yesterday, all bluster and wet.
Down by the water, all of the docks were submerged, along with these plants that are usually at least four feet up the bank. Of course the dog went swimming anyway.
The bottomland behind the house flooded, too. The cows moved upland. And finally, some Mother's Day pillowcases that I sent to my mom via my dad, who was up visiting for the weekend. There's lots of time to sew with so much rain outside. These are made from the softest off-white cotton with tiny red randomly-scattered dots. I got the fabric from superbuzzy sometime late last year. The edging was machine-executed but hand-guided (ie: my machine doesn't do scallops so there was a lot of needle-down fabric turning).

We're spending today drying out and warming up. It'll be 70 degrees here this afternoon. That feels more like May!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Rainy day birds

First things first: Happy Birthday to my brother Alex! I can't believe you're 25--hope you have a great day.

It's rainy rainy here today, which can make for some beautiful photos of flowers with the macro lens. This is an iris that my cousin Sara gave me for transplant early this spring. It seems content in my front yard, and we should have seven or eight blooms by early next week.

This morning's ride was wet and not without a certain amount of "wind up my tail" bluster on the horse's part. A group of birds has decided to call the riding ring home, and they kept flying up in Joshua's face just as we'd canter around a circle, causing much distress. Between calls of "go git 'im" to the dog, who dutifully zigged and zagged across the bluestone, rushing the birds away, we managed to get some pretty good ring work in.

At first I thought the birds were much-displaced sandpipers, since their bodies were shaped that way, but after some research on the excellent, I've determined that they were killdeers. A "season" of killdeers (be sure to listen to the recorded call). I love naturalist terminology, especially the names for groups of animals or babies. The "interesting facts" on the killdeer were what really made me sure that's what these birds were. To wit:

Interesting Facts
(Subtitled: I'm such a geek)
--Killdeer exhibit a clever “broken wing display” in which they appear to be struggling with a broken wing while all the while leading the predator away from their babies. Once their young are out of danger they “recover’ and fly off. (This season of killdeers was doing this like crazy. They'd bend down and extend a wing and their tails, all fluffed out, showing their rust-colored underfeathers, and then they'd explode upwards and away when challenged.)

--Although technically shorebirds, they are unusual in this group because they often nest and live far from water.

--They are ground-nesting birds that are famous for hiding their nests right out in the open. They really use no nesting materials and rely on distraction displays to protect their offspring. (When I first got up to the ring I stepped carefully, looking for any obvious nesting going on, but after I finished riding I found the nest in the crook of the big black coop jump that Brian made me for my 25th birthday). And so we come full circle. Here's hoping that the weekend will be a little less rainy.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hump day

Today we were talking about my rhododendrons, which are going crazy this year, and my grandmother said that our soil must be acidic at the house since the rhodos and azaleas do so well here. She said she thought that might be the reason that my peonies haven't done so well, because "they like the sweeter soil".

And a couple of works-in-progress:
On the sewing machine.
And on the design wall.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Build me up, Buttercup

It's buttercup season! I love this part of the spring, generally between the first and second mowings (or the second and third), when the buttercups spring up everywhere. They grow much taller in the country than they do in the city, and there are thousands and thousands in each field.

In the fields where the cows overwintered but where there isn't any livestock now, there are also hundreds of small clumps of darker green grass in amongst the regular field grass. These clumps are taller and lusher than the rest of the grass, and tend to occur in spots where cows left their piles of "fertilizer" during the winter. Joshua the horse doesn't like to step on these clumps of grass. When he was a younger horse, I could get him to jump them as sure as if they were little mini jumps left there in the field. Now that he's an old man, he usually just sidesteps them at the last moment, making for a very bumpy and exciting ride through fields in the spring.

Beautiful day today, and a beautiful ride through the field on the left at the end of the driveway. The one with the huge rock that serves as quite a nice mounting block should you fall off galloping around the turn.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Denim yarn experiment

Happy Monday! I've been wanting to try Rowan's Denim yarn for awhile now, reeled in as I was by the promise of finished garments that wash and wear like denim, shrink like denim, fade like denim. These are the Baby's Denim Drawstring Pants from Joelle Hoverson's Last Minute Knitted Gifts. These pants were in the four to six hour chapter in the book, but took me a little longer to make.

In the past, I've mostly stuck to wool yarn, so the cotton was a departure for me. Before washing, even my husband noticed that the fabric was a little uneven and bumpy. But after a trip through a hot water wash and a high temperature dry cycle, the fabric shrunk up nicely length-wise and self-regulated a little. The stitches now look uniform and the fabric is cohesive. Overall the denim yarn is pretty cool. I could see making a jacket-like zip-up cardigan for myself. If I made these pants again, I'd probably add a piece of elastic to the waistband as I was grafting it together to make them a little more wearable, as some Ravelry members have done.

I'm going to try to post every day this week to get back into the swing of it. We've been having some computer problems that made posting tough last week, but I hope we've seen the end of them. So I say tentatively: until tomorrow!