Thursday, July 17, 2014

Playing Tourist - Arkansas State Capitol, Little Rock

The Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock

My mother has an incredible curiosity. No matter where we were in the world, she'd go find interesting things to see, people to talk to, natural places to visit and culture to explore. I have memories of grasshoppers in Germany, tulips in Holland, blueberries and boulders in Alaska, forests in Alabama and so much more.  Where ever we went, she'd find place for us to explore and beauty around every corner.








And my mom loves pretty rocks. I remember having the back of our old Chitty bang-bang station wagon full of pretty rocks we picked up on a camping trip in Alaska. We just enjoyed them for being pretty. I don't know about my brothers, but I never even tried to identify any of them, I just enjoyed the rocks for being pretty. That family attraction to pretty rocks continues to this day. Just last night, my daughter Lena brought me a pretty rock, that might be a chunk of a geode from the sheep pen. It surfaced in the last rain.But I dye grass (family word for wandering off topic - that's a whole 'nother blog post).


Very large pretty rocks

Yesterday I was in Little Rock at central office for a work meeting. Over the lunch break when I am there for meetings I love to go explore the Capitol campus. There are monuments, interesting trees, things that could be art and lots of pretty people. One of the things that amused me yesterday was the number of large rocks with bronze plaques attached. It made me think of my mom. The people who collected the pretty rocks on the Capitol lawn needed more equipment and support than three energetic kids!









The bronzes are incredible.
If you want to explore the Arkansas State Capitol campus in Little Rock, they have a nice tour guide you can download at the link above and an audio tour that you can download to your phone and follow




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Monday, July 14, 2014

Tech! - grr - and maybe I did need a new ram

It's been a beautiful summer here, enough rain to make the garden grow well and the lambs, kids, alpacas, angoras, Jacob Sheep and dairy goats are doing well. Lena and I have moved shelters to the best summer spots and fences for better grazing. In the garden I have hundreds of green tomatoes on the vine, have frozen a couple gallons of black berries, am watching the potatoes and garlic almost ready to harvest and enjoying the moderate temperatures. It has not broken 100 degrees yet this summer.

Early on in the summer, I was shopping for a new Jacob Sheep ram to breed our Canoe Lake Sonic Boom daughters to, but I decided that we could wait another year. Just like I've decided that my dairy goats are for giving milk, not for making more dairy goats, I have the sheep for their wool. Lambs are nice, but I don't have to breed the girls every year to get wool. I was ram shopping on the new Jacob Sheep facebook group - a modern way to find new bloodlines to keep our heritage breed vibrant.

I love to tell people in my work at the Ozark Folk Center State Park that we use and keep the traditional methods of making things by hand, but we also use and enjoy modern conveniences of internet and vehicles. We cherish our history and our unique culture. History and culture didn't stop in the past - we are living and creating both today.

My broom maker partner, Shawn Hoefer, was twice named champion craft broom maker at the Arcola, Illinios Broom Corn Festival. He and my daughter Lena (second place broom maker at the Arcola festival!) make and sell more than 4,000 hand-tied, hand-dyed, hand-carved brooms per year. Broom making is Shawn's vocation. And his other vocation is tech. Broomsquire by day; Geek by night. He designs awesome web sites for more than 30 clients. He swears he really needs all those tablets, computers and handheld devices to make sure his sites display correctly cross platform.

I, on the other hand, am a manager and interpreter by day. I have an awesome, creative job working with lots of people who I really enjoy. And, as you know from this blog, I am a shepherd, dairy farmer, fiber artists, cheesemaker, gardener and cook with the other 118 hours in a week that I'm not at work. I use a computer at work and I depend heavily on my handheld for many, many things. But I am not a geek.

Shawn offered to update the ram in my little Acer Aspire One about a year ago. I said I didn't need it. I like my little computer. I would be perfectly happy to keep using this same computer for the rest of my life. But over this year, it became so slow that it wouldn't accept software updates. So I'd open it and couldn't use it. (That's why I've gotten away from writing blog posts). So it sat in the pouch on my chair.

Finally, about two weeks ago I gave it to Shawn to try and get the updates installed. He fussed with it, cussed it and ordered a new ram chip, which he installed last night. I guess I did need a new ram, just not the wooly kind. My computer does seem to be faster, though now it doesn't want to save my pictures where I want them. Probably something to do with the updates. Several people have told me that my photo system is too old school and not supported any longer... but I like it and know it and it works fine for me!!! Or it did... that is one of the things that I wish we could figure out how to add to the tech world. I have a perfectly good 90 year old loom that I use daily, why do I have to quit using my beloved handheld device after less than 4 years?

So, I seem to have a working computer at home now, and should be able to go back to sharing updates with you from Havencroft Farm. I'm a little better a putting updates on our Common Threads page on Facebook as I can do those from my handheld.
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And now I'm headed out to milk and weed the blueberries. When I come back in after chores, I'll see if I can't find a way to get pictures to post here.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Gardening and cheesemaking

Those of you who follow my blog know that last year I made the decision that my dairy goat herd was for milk production, not for raising dairy goats. To that end, I found someone who would take and raise the kids for their own use, and I have all the sweet, creamy milk from my four does. 


Right now I'm getting about four gallons a day. And I'm making cheese daily. 

I got a Dutch style cheese press for my birthday, along with molds and followers. I've made some delicious cheeses. I have yet to be able to save any to age. My family loves cheese. 

Yesterday I made a cheese with some fresh Greek oregano incorporated into it. I got the plant from the Ozark Folk Center State Park Herb Shoppe and it is doing well in my garden. 

Between making cheese, doing chores and gardening, I seem to be having trouble finding time to weave this summer. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cheesy Day

I thought I'd take my own advice and start keeping a cheese notebook, as I have several cheeses in process today. But, I couldn't find a blank notebook and didn't want to drive to the store, so, I thought I'd try this. 
Shawn got me a Dutch style cheese press for my birthday, so I can make some hard, aged cheeses. 


To that end, I made two recultureable cultures starting with New England Cheesemakings Mesophilic culture and I started a culture of the "fresh" culture whilst I was at it. I sterilized two canning jars with lids in boiling water, then poured in this mornings fresh milk and put the two sealed jars in a boiling water bath about an inch over the lids for 35 minutes. 
When the timer want off, I ran cool water into the pot and when the milk temp was down to 86 degrees I added the fresh culture and put the jar atop the freezer. When the milk temp was down to 80 degrees, I added the Mesophilic culture and put that jar above the fridge. 

Tomorrow, I'll put the two cultures in the fridge until I can divide them out into ice cube trays to freeze them. 

I also started a cheese in the crockpot with this mornings milk. At 90 degrees I added 1 cup of sweet homemade goat's milk yogurt ( made with New England Cheesemakings sweet yogurt culture) and then I let it set at that temp for 3 hours. The keep warm setting on the crock pot was too warm so I unplugged it, but the temp seemed to maintain. I added 1/2 tab of dissolved Marschalls rennet at 12:20 pm and the temp was still at 90. 

Today is humid, raining off and on and the outside temp is 76 degrees. I have the house windows open. The weather app says rain will start again in 51 minutes, so I'm going to go feed the bottle baby lambs and work in the alpaca fence while the curd forms on the crockpot cheese. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Homesteading economics

"But don't you like meat?" queried the young woman as we talked about my goat flock. I had just given away the last of my crossbred goat kids to a family who raises them for their own winter meat supply. 
"Oh, I like our own farm-raised meat well enough." I replied. "Just not well enough to spend my milk supply raising meat."
I'd far rather have my milk for putting in my coffee, making cheese and sharing with my friends and family. Homestead economics. 

Thursday, April 03, 2014

C is for Craft

Merriam Webster - Craft

 noun \ˈkraft\
: an activity that involves making something in a skillful way by using your hands
: a job or activity that requires special skill
crafts : objects made by skillful use of the hands

My life is devoted to the perpetuation of the skills of creating things with your hands. I work with more than 50 independent craft artisans at the Ozark Folk Center State Park. When I'm not at work, I'm at home on our farm in the Arkansas Ozarks, spinning, weaving, dyeing, felting, crocheting and finding other ways to create beautiful things from the fleeces from my much loved angora goats and Jacob sheep.  

Crafting has always brought peace and relaxation to my life. And I've watched learning to create things with their hands light a spark in young people's eyes and lives. This is an idea that I'd love to develop into a full essay, but I need to go rinse the purple wool I have in the dye pot...




Wednesday, April 02, 2014

B is for Boys

           B is for boy. Boy sheep and boy goats.

Lots of fuzzy little critters running around in the alleyways between the fences.



2014 has been a slightly boy-ish year here on  Havencroft Farm. 


Out of nine lambs on the ground, we have six boys. We only have four ewes left to lamb. A few if those boys look to be ram quality if you are looking for a new herd sire, let me know and I can send you pedigrees. 


Hester's lilac boy is very nice. We'll see how all their horns come in before we decide who remains a ram.  


Out of five angora goat kids, three are boys and we're done with babies in that flock. 

Happy B-day. April 2, 2014.