Friday, July 31, 2009


So Busted from Cindy Telisak on Vimeo.

Little alpacas acting like hormone-driven teenagers are pretty funny to watch. This afternoon I was working in the front yard when I heard the unmistakable squealing-squawking noise of alpacas fighting. I peeked over the fence and sure enough, the little boys were in a roiling tangle of necks and legs, biting and writhing and carrying on. I ran into the house for the camera, sure that when I got back they'd be grazing in the grass and look up as if to say, "who, us?" But it was worth a try.

Sure enough, I got the camera out there just in time to catch the last fits of tantrum and then I learned something. Alpacas can look guilty. I think Mushroom knew he was So Busted. Everything stopped. Wow, even alpacas respond when Mom comes into the room. Of course, my presence also reminds them that it's dinner time, and we all know what's the most important thing that could be going on - eating.

It might be significant that the two boys who were doing the most tussling are the two oldest - Mushroom and Dewey - both Mary's boys. Dewey was one year old in May, and Mushroom turned one today! My two guys won't be a year old until September, and then their hormones are likely to start kicking in as well.

Something to look forward to.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rachel's Mantle

I'm very excited to show you our first Farm design, using Jacob's Reward Farm yarn - the "Rachel's Mantle" neckwarmer! It can be worn three different ways! This gorgeous pattern was designed by our own Joanne Pohlman, an accomplished designer and a JRFF shareholder! This design will be available soon, and she tells me it's not as hard to knit as it looks. (Always a plus!) Joanne asked her friend Deb to test-knit the pattern, and Deb has a nice picture of her finished project on her Ravelry page.

This beautiful piece deserves a better photo, but I was in a hurry to show it to you and let you know the pattern is coming. It will be for sale for a very modest price, and will also be available in kits once our extra fiber comes back from the mill. "Extra" means that the fiber came from other local alpaca farms and was not a part of the shareholders' harvest. Our processor, Lynn at Spinderellas, makes the most beautiful yarn this side of handspinning, and the kits for this small, exquisite project would make incredible gifts. I'll let you know as soon as they are available.

Warm up your needles, gals...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Doctor's Orders

I really love to spin, me. Why then, is it that I don't allow myself more time for it? I have several theories. One: my inner whipcracker sees all the undone "work" around the place and says, "no playing until all the work is done." Two: my inner nine-year old is too easily lulled into a coma by the legitimate and illegitimate hours spent on the internets. Three: my inner perfectionist won't allow me to leap into anything I might not do perfectly the first time.

I know, serious therapy time. Try not to judge me.

Fortunately for me, one of the best therapies is spinning. Today several members of my Wednesday spinning group met at a member's house since the church where we usually meet was tied up with Vacation Bible School. Three of us carpooled over to Keller to meet with others for our regular spin/knit/kibbutz/show-n-tell time. I took my alpaca baby hat for in-the-car knitting, and then some stash roving and my Louet wheel for the balance of the day. I made some progress. In my stash were several oddments of green rovings. In order to get enough yardage out of the lot, I tore the rovings into small pieces and spun the different shades of green and brown in random order. So far, I really like the resulting single. Now, plying. The decision before me is whether to Navajo ply the bobbin, or find a neutral or coordinating single laying around to ply with. I do have a taupe single, wound in a center pull ball on a paper core, of unknown fiber, that might do the job. Looks like a swatch is in order.

What are you spinning that you like right now? Why don't you spin as much as you'd like? Do you battle an inner killjoy of some kind? Maybe it's just me... ;-)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Wet Alpaca Contest

Today wasn't as hot as it has been, but any warm day is a good day for a frolic in the sprinkler. First the suri boys vie for the hose, and remember, these are the same alpacas who used to run terrified to the far end of the pen. Then we turn the water on the big huacaya boys, who take a few minutes away from their food pans for some liquid refreshment. (Jonah and Gideon resist the siren call, and continue eating undisturbed.) Finally, we see the Buff Orpingtons call it a day and head for the safety of the "tractor." Soundtrack provided by 2.3 million really loud cicadas.

There are still a couple of months of summer left, but I have the feeling that the fight has gone out of it. And that has me thinking ahead to fall. Once we get into September, the opportunities for fiber festivals and craft fairs and farm events explode, so I want you to be ready. Check your calendar and see if you can join us for any of these upcoming outings:

August 15 – Spinning in the Red Barn*

September 5 – Farmersville Art Festival

September 19 – Spinning in the Red Barn*

September 20 - Bishop Arts District Peace Festival

September 26-27 – Alpaca Farm Crawl*

October 17 -- "Spinning Yarns" Storytelling Day at the Farm*

October 24-25 – Huffhines Art Trails, Richardson

November 7-8 - Snowflake Bazaar - Plano

November 13-15 – Kid N Ewe, Boerne

November 20-21 – Cat Bordhi at the Woolie Ewe in Plano

Events with an asterisk will be held here at the farm, and the others are events where the farm may be a participant. Not all of those off-site events are set in stone for us yet.

So, while it's too hot to think about the holidays this minute, get your rest, because the Fall is Coming!

Monday, July 27, 2009


A cool, steady rain kept us comfortable today. The chickens were a little ticked because I kept them cooped up, but experience has taught me that coyotes also like this kind of weather. It's safer and easier on me if everyone just hunkers down in the coops on gloomy days. I didn't mind the rain at all, because we need it so badly.

This morning I saw on how our neighbors down in Austin are hurting from one of the worst droughts in 50 years. Boats in Lake Travis are sitting on dry land. Severe water restrictions are in place. People are ratting each other out on the 24 hour anonymous whistle-blower hotline for overwatering. Ranchers are selling off their herds because there is no pasture to feed them. It's bad.

We, on the other hand, aren't too far behind for rainfall this year, I believe. My grass is growing, the cracks in the clay soil have filled in, and several species of fungi dot the pastures. I will not complain. Nope. We could get rain on and off all this week, with reasonable temperatures up to the mid 80s. Grateful, I am. Grateful.

I do have a little bit of culture shock when I go into town and walk around on sidewalks, with the rainwater running obediently off into the storm drains. It's all so tidy in town.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Have a Great Week!

I thought you might like to be sent into your week with the sweet smile of Mighty Micah, the tiny pocket 'paca. As the smallest boy in the bunch, he almost always has the submissive posture of having his ears pasted down behind his head. But he has a killer smile, doesn't he? (I may have posted this before, but I love it to bits.) When I finally get the boys into halters and get to working them, I'll get them weighed. I'd love to know if Micah is actually growing. He still looks so little next to his brothers.

Do you get a little melancholy on Sunday nights? I do some. I think it's a throwback to my school days, and Sunday night signaled the end of the weekend. We'd watch Ed Sullivan and know that when the show was over, it would be lights out, and then waking up on Monday morning, and off to school. Those early memories are hard to shake. In reality, out here on the farm, every morning starts the same, with feeding and barn cleaning chores--Sunday to Saturday, rain or shine, hot or cold. The only difference the animals may notice is that I tend to sleep a bit later on Saturday morning, and they cut me some slack.

I pray your week goes well, that you are successful in your endeavors, and that you get some time to rest, relax, exercise your creativity, and find joy in the little things. Let us know how it goes for you!

xo, Cindy

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Quiet Week Ahead

Ahhh. We've slipped into that gentle part of the summer where the temperatures begin to move off of the ridiculous peaks and at least level out to the bearable range. Highs forecast for this week top out in the low 90s, which means here on the tree-dense farm we may not even see 90. There's a bit of rain in the forecast as well - welcome in small doses. Not a bad outlook.

DD is back from camp, full of fun stories of zany camp activities and sporting only a minor injury - pulled her shoulder a bit, and we hope that will be mended quickly. It did not dampen her overall experience and she's already missing her new friends and her counselor, and talking about next year. Her leader and cabin mates are talking about getting together this week to build on their camp fun and continue their friendship. That's the way camp ought to be. I'm so grateful. And I'm happy to have her home. The quiet was great, but I really did miss her.

Every day here there are projects to be tackled. Right now, DH is working on a new chicken "tractor," the movable, floorless pens we keep chickens in, out in the pasture. Our current pens are full, so to increase our chigger patrol and egg production we need to get more birds, and more birds will need a place to live. This tractor is DH's own design, and I can't wait to see it completed. I'll keep you updated.

Our friend Mary is progressing right along in her move to the country, so before I know it, she'll be here to fetch her two suri alpaca boys, and take them up to Farmersville. She'd better hurry, because I'm getting mighty attached to the little toots. They've calmed down a lot and will all eat out of my hand. All are enamored with the hose now on hot days; they've figured out how much more comfortable they are with wet legs and tummies, standing in a little breeze.

I'm trying to steal a little knitting time here and there between To-Do List obligations. I'll get little Jemma's hat done soon, I think. Then it's back to tackling more UFOs (unfinished objects). Are you working on anything neat? Send me a photo!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Project's Progress

Sometimes it's nice to sit for three hours at the auto repair place. IF you have your knitting, that is. I took our truck in for a brake job this morning, not thinking it would be very long, and boy was I glad I had tucked Jemma's hat into my purse for the ride. I really like our mechanic, and his wife who runs the front office. Jill and Dave in Wylie (All Pro Autocare, if you're interested) really know their stuff and are so helpful and affordable. And they have a comfy sofa in the waiting area, so I just made myself at home and stitched and stitched while Jill and I discussed topics of major and minor cosmic importance. Some mixup with the parts guy caused the extra delay, but I didn't complain; I never get three uninterrupted hours of knitting time anymore. See how much I got done?
There's just something soothing about knitting around and around with sweet yarn on awesome needles (Adi Turbo bamboo, now). Jill kept apologizing for the long wait for the truck and I just smiled and kept knitting. Reminded me of what Stephanie Pearl-McPhee says: knitters aren't patient people, knitting helps us be patient. If I had just had to sit there for 3 hours, regardless of Jill's conversational skills, I would have gone bonkers! Keeping my hands busy gives me peace...

And I've been really wondering: What are you working on? I'd like to feature some Finished Objects, or some Works In Progress, among our friends and shareholders. If you'd like to show off your latest project, e-mail me a .jpg image, with a description of the project, who it's for, what you're making it out of, all that kind of stuff, and I'll share it here on the blog. Send it to ctelisak at juno dot com.

Remember, Christmas is closer than we think. If your needles are clicking, get your camera out and get some knit cred for all your labors of love.

We want to SEE!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Carpe Diem

Time to seize the day, my friends, on many fronts. First of all, Ted has been out picking the feral mustang grapes that grow wild on our property, draping the cedar and hackberry trees - they are in full ripeness right this minute. These are good sized grapes with a tough, tart skin; sweet with lots of seeds. Perfect for jelly or jam. I expect to see the canning pots and jars out this weekend.

Me, I've started a sweet baby hat for our next church baby, Jemma, who ought to be born in the next couple of weeks. She won't need a warm hat for a while, so I'm trying to get the size to come out right for her to wear it this winter. KnitPicks had a nice alpaca yarn on sale in a coral/beige/tan colorway that appealed to me. I'll take photos of the finished hat soon. Have I mentioned how much I love my Harmony circular needles? Mmmm-mmmm good.

But most of my energy today went into cleaning DDs room while she's away at camp. I warned her I was going to do it, and she will get a bill for my services. When I really got into it today, it was clear that she would never have been able to get all the way down to the bones - it was really that bad. I will not let it get to this point again. I don't want to be a Joan Crawford harridan about teen-room-tidiness, but I think some basic organizational skills and hygiene standards need to be set. Anybody been through this? What have you found to be a good motivator?

That's how I'm attacking this time of our summer season - what are you doing to use this break in the heat?

Fashionably Late

I am always behind when it comes to technology, but many times it works in my favor. I end up spending less on the "latest" gadget because it isn't the "latest" anymore. So when I got that cool beetle-green iPod for my birthday, the only person around who took the slightest notice, was me. I'm still grunting up the learning curve, and making small advances.

So far, I have accidentally gotten some good podcasts onto the iPod, and managed to listen to them. Tonight, I deleted those and added a new set, including a video podcast that I used to watch faithfully on my computer. Now, I can tote Cat and Eric from LetsKnit2gether around in my pocket and watch them on this itty-bitty screen on the iPod. How cool is that?

And how Last Decade. But pish-posh, it's new to me and I think it's grand.

I could even listen to my own podcast on this weensy little machine! Amazing. Find it on iTunes or go straight to the site: (Sneaky plug.) Go get your iPod and squeeze it down that little wire and you can have it, too!

Now, lets rub a couple of sticks together and see if we can start a fire.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Letting Go, Letting Grow

This morning, I put my only child on a bus bound for church camp for 5 days. She's an exceptionally good kid, and I'm so happy she's going to have a really good time. But I experienced the same pangs that I did when I let her off at the school for the first day of first grade. I had to let go. It's not a bad thing, but a necessary thing, and there are the uncomfortable stretching feelings that go with it - like when you touch your toes without bending your knees. With the palms of your hands. Mmmm, mmm, mmm. Feel that in your hamstring, don't you? Yessirreee, kind of a "hurts/feels good" kind of thing.

We'll both grow up some in these next few days. And the prize at the bottom of the box? She hearts me.

So far, so good.

Now, how should I spend all this extra time this week?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Little More Rain

...and the temps dropped again. Wow. Heady stuff. Didn't accomplish much except getting DD closer to ready for camp. Of course, Sunday is church and lunch with pals. Then I stopped at Target on the way home, mid afternoon, and went into my usual Big Box Store Coma. Started buying all kinds of stuff that I had thought of at one time or another - a new set of sheets (our 2 sets are older than DD), a novel to try to read (I hear it's good for me), a set of tiny little hair clippies (to use as crochet stitch markers), a funny birthday card for DD (tomorrow's the big day), camp stuff like bug spray and laundry markers - you know, a bizarre assortment of things. Came home and went into the Sunday Afternoon Daze Coma. Not quite as restful as DH's full-out-log-sawing-pillow-drooling-nap, but I got a few e-mails answered and DD's suitcase packed.

But at chore time, I got to enjoy the coolness that the latest hit-and-run storm left behind. How lovely. Cleared my head and gave me some real peace. I'm gearing up for an interesting week with the place to myself - DH at work and DD off at camp until Saturday afternoon. The trick will be balancing work and play, knitting and animal care, organizing and... uh, reading. I don't sit still very well so I hope this book turns out to be interesting.

(Rainy day photos by E. Telisak)

Spin, Span, Spun

Ah, bliss. Two of my favorite things converged yesterday - cool weather and spinning. I realize "cool" is a relative term, and after a couple of weeks of 100+ temperatures, 89 felt like sweater weather. But we'll take it.

Chris, Peggy, and Kate were able to come by to spin yesterday in the Red Barn, and it was the usual blast. Peggy brought her darling Wee Peggy spinning wheel and continued working on her Jacob roving, doing a wonderful job! Chris had some pretty fiber of unknown heritage that had been dyed with cochineal and yellow madder that looked like flickering flames - beautiful! Kate worked on some really cool recycled jeans fiber that still had plenty of the soft indigo dye to give it a beautiful color. She spun tiny little singles on her tiny supported tahkli spindle - very cool, and fascinating to watch.

Peggy's antique Wee Peggy wheel needed a little adjustment, so Kate and I tried to sleuth out any mechanical troubles. In the end we all held our mouths right and the Peggys were back on track and spinning and plying up a storm.

I went back to work on my cotton rug, knowing that I will have more cotton to deal with later in the week - Laurie got us in on a killer sale at Webs for some coned cotton, so I'm already working on project plans for that. It has been suggested that I knit a house with it. Maybe they think I ordered a lot. Hmmmm.

Thanks to Chris, we have a large beginning on our Yarn Storming stash. Let me know if you'd like to contribute and I'll hold off mailing the goodies to our coordinator. We've also learned of a need for lots of old acrylic yarn (any color at all is fine) for a lady suffering with Alzheimers, whose only peace comes from crocheting granny squares and doilies. She's going through the stuff at a dizzying pace and it's hard on her family to keep her supplied. Also, if you can think of anything her family can do with all those squares, let me know and I'll pass it along. If you have any yarn to donate, old or new, please drop me a line.

For your calender, our next spin-in will be August 15 at the Red Barn. Love to see you!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sharing the Wealth

What a fun day! Shareholder Chris came over to play on the farm, to help with the chores, and to visit with me for Episode 3 of our Farm Podcast. (Listen here.) She proved herself quite adept at all of those things. She fed the chickens, the sheep and the alpacas, and even got the privilege of shoveling some alpaca poo into the compost bin. We roll out the red carpet here at Jacob's Reward, make no mistake.

A bit later, but in time to join in on the podcast fun, new shareholder Carol dropped in as well and contributed greatly to our third episode. (But she got away before I could snap her picture.) And these gals say they will be back tomorrow to get going on their drop spindles! It should be a lovely day, perhaps beginning with some more lovely rain. Last night's overnight storm dropped the temperatures into the Bearable range, and everybody said, "AMEN."

If you're coming to spin with us on Saturday morning, remember we're collecting yarn from the overflow of your stash bounty to be re-gifted to those knitters who find themselves in financial straights in these tough economic times. Dig though the closets and bins and see if any of your long-forgotten yarn would like to see the world and go YARN STORMING.

Mon-yana, friends!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rain's Comin'!

Just when we didn't think we could take it one more day, the chance of rain finally appears in the forecast. Our temps could drop from the low 100s to the low 90s. That's the difference between life and death, sometimes. I lost a hen today - couldn't find anything wrong with her from looking. I'm chalking it up to the heat. I've been letting the girls out early in the day so that they can find the places on the property that afford the best shade and breeze, and access to anything that wards off the hot air. One thing they love to do is dustbathe under the shrubs in the garden. I think the shaded dirt is cool and feels good to them. But the hen who died was in the coop when she expired, without a mark on her. It may remain a mystery.

The alpacas still seem to be holding up alright. I'm so thankful that we'll be getting a break in the next few days. I did want you to see why it takes so long to clean the fiber on these naughty boys. Moonstruck, in particular, loves to roll on the ground. Sometimes, he's rolling in the dirt to help fend off parasites or to cool himself with the dirt. Other times, he's trying to claim his food pan and defend it from his brothers, by rolling on it. Because of the stuff stewn around the pen right now, he comes up from a good roll looking like a hay bale on four legs. Over time, this is going to mean lots of picking once the fiber comes off at shearing. He is a very naughty boy.

I am hoping to have a new podcast out before the weekend's over. I've been busy working to get Ms. Emma ready for camp next week, and you know what that means. Buying new clothes and writing her name in all of them. It's a super dorky thing to have to do, but what choice does a mom have? I comfort her by telling her that she's going to have the time of her life.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dog Days

The heat drags on, and so we continue with indoor projects that require little physical exertion. Today I got some clean-ish wool and a prototype dog bed cover from Laurie, so I brought them home and tentatively assembled our first woolly bed. I am trying to see how much fiber it really takes to fill one up to a comfortable "squooshyness." And I dragged my poor Corgi, Robbie, out of his crate where he was already sawing logs for the night so he could give it a test run for me.

As you can see, his attitude was less than enthusiastic about the photo shoot, but I'm not taking that as a lack of endorsement for the dog bed itself. In fairness, the bed didn't fit him very well, as he is much longer in the body than I remembered; he could use the next size up as we design our cushions' dimensions.

Our plan is to pick up suitable fabric for the outer covers as we happen upon it, so the beds will mostly be one- or two- of a kind. Not sure if they will be available on-line or here at the farm, but those details are still being worked out. Stay tuned for news as it develops.

In the meantime, Robbie is outta here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rug or Placemat?

The answer will depend on two things: 1) how long my attention span holds out and 2) how long my cotton yarn holds out. The first is the most critical.

I had some friends over for a bit o' knittin' in the Red Barn this afternoon, and I've learned that it's best to work on a simple project with no counting or fancy stitch patterns while I visit. My jaw starts flapping and my mind goes off on a dozen tangents, and before you know it, I've royally messed up my stitches. Today was no exception. Thought I'd try some simple crochet - the movement and rhythm of crochet stitches are soothing to my hands. But I was trying to crochet a hexagon, and that involves counting and Getting It Right. I tore out my work at least three times. Finally, just before my friends left, I switched to an oval shape. I've been saying I'd like to make a cotton rug. It's a simple shape I can manipulate as I go, by sight, rather than by counting. So I got a bit of a beginning going, just as everyone was heading out the door. I continued working on it after dinner tonight and have a decent piece shaping up.

But the question is - how far will it go? Will I give up when it's only big enough for a placemat? (Good grief, then I'd need FOUR! No way.) It's not thick enough as it is to be a decent rug. I could crochet an identical oval and sew them together around the edge... No, that would mean doing the same thing twice and I'm here to tell you - it ain't gonna happen. Besides, I'm not using a pattern, and the chances that the second piece would match are pretty poor.

I've had an idea. I'll crochet the whole thing once, and then sew a matching piece of felt sheeting to the back for thickness. I can tie it in places like a quilt to keep the two layers together. Easy peasy. Promise I'll let you know if it gets done.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Season of Stillness

DH reminded me this evening that even though we constantly work for "balance" in our lives, it most often proves elusive, if not impossible. Too many things are constantly changing to ever find a point at which all things even out. And trying to FORCE any kind of balance usually frustrates and discourages us. Instead, we learn from the natural world around us that the system is wired for "seasons;" periods of time best suited for certain activities. During these seasons, "non-seasonable" activities really need to just put a sock in it and leave us alone.

For instance, when it is over 100 degrees outside, it makes more sense to blow off manual labor in favor of a cool drink and maybe a siesta. Summer works well for indoor projects, eating food that is currently ripening in the field, and putting stuff aside for the winter. On the other hand, brisk fall days are perfect for working with the livestock and making fence repairs. You do NOT want to be chopping firewood in July.

With all that in mind, I'm trying to use this hot "indoor" season to dig into the mystery piles of chaos that have grown up in the house, and to work to bring about order and peace. I'm all about the trashman this week. What around here is no longer serving me, and is in fact, aggravating me by taking up space and appealing to my nostalgic bent? Those things are going in the trash or to Goodwill. Nothing is off limits: photos, keepsakes, files, office supplies - all are coming under my scrutiny. I've already excavated about 20 square feet of office floor that I haven't seen in years. Feels good. When you're hot, you want to cast off stuff that is weighing you down.

Except yarn. The yarn stays. In fact, digging through all my sidelined projects has given me the urge to get going on some knitting and crochet. Fresh off the success of my All Shawl, I'm ready to cast on another quick, fun, functional project.

Pal Laurie and I have cooked up a good (non-yarn) project that we can do indoors, and use up lots of that coarse fiber that just can't go to the processor for our fiber shares: dog beds. We both are pretty competent with sewing machines, and we have some idle fabric that is speaking to us. Stuffed full of olofactorily-robust wool stuffing, we think we'll have dog beds that your Rex will go gaga over. I'll have photos soon of our prototypes, so you can give us some feedback.

But right now, I'm thinking, crocheted cotton rug. Just for fun. As I go to hunt up my size N crochet hook, I leave you with some sheep portraits I took this morning. The sheep were feeling slighted by all the attention the alpacas had been getting. Call this "equal time."

PS - Don't forget Saturday's Spinning Day! At 10 AM we'll pile into the COOL Red Barn and spin, spin, spin. We'll be giving drop spindle lessons, trying out various makes of wheels, and generally taking a much-needed break from our work-a-day worlds. Except me - this IS my work. Is this a great country, or what?

OK - here are your sheepy pals enjoying their breakfast today...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Alpacas in the Moonlight

These shimmery creatures glow in the waning light as dusk turns to dark...

Friday, July 10, 2009

I Love Growing Things

If today wasn't the hottest day so far, it's up in the top five. Really blistering today. But we started out at DD's horseback riding lesson, before the sun really got a grip on the day. She doesn't mind if I come watch once in a while, and I like to shoot a little video so she can see how much she's progressed in her three years of formal lessons. It's time for a Mom's Brag video:

She's growing. And growing up. (sniff)

Mid-day today I got to go visit my friend Mary at her new place out in the country. Mary and her husband have purchased 15 acres where nobody has curbs or privacy fences, or even much concrete. Mary and Ken are jumping into the hobby farm life with both feet. All their free time now is spent preparing the outbuildings and fences for their new livestock (alpacas, goats, chickens, rabbits and guardian dogs) and the little house for their eventual habitation. I totally understand where she is right now. See my blog entries from 2007 which chronicle our "remodel" of this farm homestead. Our friend Kate met us out there and we all walked the property talking about potential uses of the barns and sheds, and where to put cross fencing.
It's a lot of work and it will take time, but it's so stinking FUN! Oh, and money. It always takes money. I've certainly spent my share, and will continue to invest in our place.
And that's how we help things grow - we continually invest time, money, effort and emotion. Over time, we see progress and change. Growing. I can't speak for Mary, but I grew, too, in that project of moving out of the suburbs (or, out of Egypt, as I like to call it). I learned that I really can affect more change than I ever thought possible. I learned that things that look fixed might not be so fixed, and can be adapted to our purposes. I've begun to learn how not to take "no" for an answer, or at least how to propose lots of other options when I hit roadblocks. For someone like me who grew up taking orders most of the time, this is a big step. 'Bout time, too, if you ask me.
Can't wait to see how Mary's place will look in a year, or five. Hang in there, girl! It'll be so worth it!

Sprinkler Time

When it's this hot, there's only one way to get relief: run through the sprinkler. You believe that, don't you? Admit it. It was one of the best things about summer vacation as a kid. OK, the ice cream man was better, but not by much.

The little Suri alpacas are just learning about the joys of the sprinkler. Dewey is old enough to have gotten squirted last summer, and he really likes it, but the other boys are too young and think that the hose is a big scary alpaca-eating snake, or something.

Today I decided it was just too hot for all of them NOT to get wet, so I worked them into a corner of the pen and squirted away. "Hmmm," they thought. "Nobody ate me!" You could see the wheels turning. "That feels pretty good! Hey, me first!"

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Keep Celebrating!

I'm all for anything that stretches out a celebration. Today, my birthday got a bit of a stretch when at my regular spinning group, I was the delighted recipient of a gorgeous cake and a bunch of funny cards. It's the tradition of our group to fete our members during the week of their birthdays, and it's such a joy to have your own birthday commemorated in due season.

The Group:
The Cake:

This cake is truly exquisite. By Liz's generous provision, here is the recipe:

Lemon Bundt Cake
1 cup butter (the real thing -- not margarine), softened
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon extract (be careful not to get this on your hands-it burns)
2 lemons for juicing -- depending on how lemony you want the glaze to be (2 to 3)
Powdered sugar -- which I just keep adding to the lemon juice until it is sweet enough

Put the softened butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until really creamy. Gradually add the oil, and mix until very smooth. Next comes the sugar, added slowly, mixed until it looks fluffy. You can't really overmix during this step. Remember to turn off the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl every so often, so that the ingredients all get incorporated into the batter. When in doubt, mix a little longer.

Crack the eggs, one at a time into a separate container before adding to the batter, so that you can pick out any shell fragments. The eggs should be added to the batter one at a time, and mixed well after each egg. This step is where the light and tender texture is made, so the batter should be really well beaten. It should appear very light and fluffy when you are done mixing.

Adding the flour, milk, and lemon extract
This is the step where you want to mix the batter as little as possible. With the mixer set on a slow speed, add 1 cup of the flour, and mix just until blended. Add 1/2 cup of milk, mix just until blended, then repeat with 1 more cup of flour, 1/2 cup of milk, and the final cup of flour. Add the lemon extract at the end, and mix it in gently.

Bake the Cake
Use a 10 inch Bundt pan. I use a pampered chef stoneware pan, as it cooks more evenly than other types of bakeware. Whatever you use, make sure it is well greased. This cake bakes in a cooler oven, so bake it at 300 degrees for 90 minutes, or longer if needed.

Cool the Cake
Okay, this may seem like an obvious step, but it took me several tries to get it right. The cake is done when a cake tester or knife blade inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Cool the cake in the pan on the rack for 15 minutes, then remove from pan directly onto wire rack. Cool completely.

This glaze is so easy and makes the cake even more yummy. Simply juice the lemons into a container (I use a gravy shaker, but a bowl and whisk works just as well), and add powdered sugar to taste. I like a tart glaze, but you may want it more sweet. Mix until smooth, then just pour the glaze over the cake, and enjoy!

I put the cake on a rack over a flat pan. Then, I drizzled some of this over the cake, waited until it dried, then put on more layers until I ran out. I had lots of glaze and next time I think I will just do one lemon's worth.

(Thanks, Liz!)
This cake is not on any diet plan. Be warned.

And then this afternoon, with the characteristic unpredictability for our part of the country, a freak thunderstorm popped up and dumped about a half an inch of rain, and marble-sized hail. Really, really weird. But we'll take it, because there is no rain forecast for the foreseeable future, and it dropped the temperature easily by 10 degrees. Yessss.

So, thank you, Texas Twisters, for another day of birthday fun, and thank you, Lord, for another respite from the furnace blast.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

When Sheep Attack

When Sheep Attack from Cindy Telisak on Vimeo.

OK, actually, this is what shepherds do to create interest and intrigue in the daily routine. Our sheep are the friendliest things on four legs, so the only danger is getting between them and their feed bowls. Then they might knock you down in a flurry of toenails and wooly fluff. Hardly an OSHA violation.

This video is inspired by Harry of Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm. Keep up the good work, Harry.

I am a Wealthy Woman

I measure wealth in intangibles: loving family, happy home, abundance of wonderful friends, good health, joyful vocation(s), and citizenship in heaven, to name but a few. Yesterday, I received evidence of all my riches many times over.

First of all, Emma helped me with my morning chores, which not only lightened the load, but gave me nice company. The weather was very pleasant, and rekindled my enthusiasm for farm life. Then I got to go with my dear friend Jill, her sister Carol visiting from England, and Emma to McKinney for lunch and some casual antique shopping. (Emma was infinitely patient and non-whining while the grownups wandered from shop to shop. I was so proud!) I came home with a lovely woven tea towel and a very old cardboard accordion cutting mat--a great sewing tool. Not to mention, a tummy full of the best chocolate creme pie for miles.

Yesterday evening, Ted came home and whipped up a beautiful supper of fresh-caught fish (thanks Debbie and Matt!!) and a birthday cake from scratch! While he and Emma were banging and clanging around in the kitchen, I just about finished off the crocheted shawl I started late last week (pictured above). This project was fun and quick, and I'm very happy with the result. Sometimes a girl just has to sit down and Make Something. Got that urge satisfied for a little while. Kind of tempted to start another one. These would be awesome Christmas presents!

Speaking of presents, I received the iPod I had asked for (beetle-green, of course!) for my birthday, and got Emma to help me load it up with podcasts. I tried to listen while I did chores, but I tended to get the earbud wires hung on the fences and door latches as I moved around the pens, and I also felt a little disconnected from the critters while I worked. My time in the barn and pasture is usually my time to look everyone over and connect with each of them, and to assess health and well-being. I may need to leave the iPod in the house during the regular chores. Now, if I ever get up the gumption to finish preparing the garden, you can be sure I'll be encouraging myself with some peppy music or inspiring oration, via my earbuds.

I know it's time to file a new Podcast, and I want to have your input. Are there any questions you have about the farm or our critters? Spinning or knitting? God or the origin of the universe? I'll see what I can come up with ;-) Let me know here and I'll try to address those things in my next 'cast.

Thank you for the richness you add to my life! I pray I might bless you right back!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Today's My Birthday

So I'm going to go to bed and visit with you in the morning.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

That's Odd

We got a break in the heat today, and a little rain to boot. This was great rain - a light, steady drizzle, on and off. Not enough to make m.u.d., but hopefully enough to give the grass and plants a little drink. Temps are down in the 80s now, and that is blessed relief. Of course, the humidity is still 120%, so it feels more like swimming than walking across the yard, but I will be grateful for the cool and try not to whine.

I came across a couple of interesting things that I thought I'd share. Wish I had three. Three is a better number, so I apologize now for lack of balance in this post. But here goes:

Last night at dinner, our friends presented us with a funny bottle of wine. Don't you wish you had one of these? Check Sams. (And click on the picture to enlarge it.)
And then, here is a tomato Ted brought home from the Farmer's Market.
I have no words.

Have a great week, friend! And watch out for the produce.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

"Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
--Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775

I'm so grateful to be an American today, with the freedoms and liberties we enjoy here. And I'm grateful for the people who continue to fight and die that our country can continue to operate as a free nation. I pray we will guard that freedom for years and years to come.

Did you have a great Fourth?

Aside from the usual chores, I took it pretty easy, and got a lot of progress made on the All Shawl. What better way to spend a 100+ degree day than inside under the AC, crocheting with organic cotton? This pattern is a great one to work on while chatting or listening to music... very repetitive, simple to remember, progresses quickly. Love the "quickly" part.

Emma got tired of the aroma of the dog, and took him out to the front yard for a bath. He's not crazy about the bath part, but he loves to be dried off with a towel. I think you could rub him down with a towel any day of the week and be rewarded with his undying love. Kind of comical, actually, and he does smell much better.

The critters again hunkered down in the shade, staying hydrated and as cool as possible. We're all looking forward to the chance of rain and the approaching cool front that may bring temperatures as low as 85 degrees on Monday. If we can just hang on...

We had a lovely dinner at a friend's house this evening with our church Small Group, and drove home in time to watch fireworks going off in several directions around the metroplex. The beautiful fireworks in the photo above actually took place in Addison last night - Ms. Laurie contributed the image.

I pray you have a wonderful holiday with family and friends, and take time to count your blessings, as Americans. It's not perfect here, but we keep working to make it better.

Do you know the second verse of the Star Spangled Banner? Goes like this:

"O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
and this be our motto, "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"
--Francis Scott Key (1779-1843)