Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Down to the Last Beet

Well, I have tried every trick I can find to rotate this photo upright, but it isn't moving.  Please stand up from you chair, move one step to the right and tilt your head 90 degrees to the left.
   Behold!  Shannon is holding the last beet in our seemingly never-ending journey to the 6900th jar of pickled beets & strawberries!  The time was about 1:30, just before the p.m. crew came in, happy to see that they were done peeling beets for at least the next few months.  If you've never peeled a beet, you don't know that their skins are tough and dirty.  It's hard on your hands and, as you can see by Shannon's gloves,  a purple, messy ordeal.  
  By the time I finish this post, Melanie and Karl should be well into processing the last of the jars.  We needed 333 at the start of the day, which is right around what I expect them to finish tonight.  There are enough beets brining to give Shannon and I another few hundred to make tomorrow.  Then, the celebratory potluck will be on Friday!
  We are all a bit sad to be losing our temporary helpers, Shannon and Karl, but we all still work on the same farm and can visit without pickling together.  I have Melanie's and my production P.B. (post beet) scheduled for the next few weeks, including 500 more jars of granola and 250 jars of barbecue sauce.
  Christmas is almost here!  I can't believe I'm all done shopping, everything is mailed, nothing left to do but enjoy the rest of the season.  I hope you all have a wonderful, possibly white Christmas!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Busman's Holiday

Today was chilly, windy and in the morning, cloudy.  A perfect day to completely cover every square inch of counter space I have with flour, eggs, butter and lots of other baking detritus.  My sister is always bugging me to make her cookies, but I never do.  They never taste as good two days after they're baked!  But this year, I was at a loss as to what else to give her, so I made some.  Lots of them, actually.  I made peanut butter blossoms with Hershey's kisses in the centers, marmalade cookies with tangerine glaze, butternut squash-walnut cookies, cranberry-walnut-orange bread and mincemeat coffee cakes. Those of you who were at the Clinch Valley Handweavers' Guild Christmas party yesterday tasted the lovely mincemeat coffee cake that Ginny Shaner brought.  I emailed her this morning and asked for the recipe.  Instead of the brown sugar glaze she used, I used up the remaining tangerine glaze, and also made some lemon glaze.  My mincemeat has a lot of candied lemon, orange and grapefruit zest in it, since I made it, so the glazes should be good with it.  

 And what would my Sunday be without bread?  I made some sourdough bread today, using only sourdough as the leavening.  I'm not always brave enough to try it without adding yeast, but I had all day today for it to rise three times, and it came out fine.  The crumb structure was more dense than I wanted, but the sour taste with the white whole wheat was lovely with leftover chili.  
  Everything is wrapped and jarred and cleaned up. The gifts are ready to give out in the coming week. Everyone have a sweet week! 

Thursday, December 16, 2010


This is what greeted me this morning as I ventured out to work.  After not being able to walk down my sidewalk to my car, I made the necessary text messages, phone calls and emails to let everyone know I was coming in to work late, and not in a ditch somewhere.
  The ice on some things is pretty, viewed through the gray light of morning.  My new crepe myrtle and the two year old red bud are doing fine, so far, and look quite picturesque.

  Not faring quite so well are the butterfly bush and the beautiful, brave little dogwood.  I actually screamed a little scream when I saw the dogwood, the first damage I noticed from the ice storm.  I don't know if I should try to knock the ice off, or if it will be more fragile now than if I let it warm up a bit first.  It breaks my heart to see it bent over like that!  I put the stakes on either side of it when I planted, but then read how staking trees is not the norm anymore, and in fact, discouraged.  I see now I should have gone ahead and tied it to the stakes.

As is normal for this part of the country, all schools are closed, and the roads are treacherous, so I will sit tight until nine this morning.  My job doesn't involve the guests in the hotel, so it's not as important that I'm there as it used to be.  There are, however, 1692 jars of pickled beets & strawberries left to go, and I so want to get them done by next week!  Not worth risking my life for, but oh!  How I want to make something else!
  If you're in the ice storm area, be careful out there!

Update:  I got within five miles of the farm and turned around.  It's melting here in Knoxville, but it was getting icier and colder, the farther I went into the mountains--duh!--so I decided to come back  home.  Stay warm!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Are You KIDDING Me???

So, I was weaving along, happy as a clam, giggling to myself as the pattern progressed, until... Do you notice how the left side of the yellow is wider than the right side?  Remember when I had to wind more threads?  Yeah, I didn't need to.  I just miscounted the left side of the design, as I threaded right to left.

And here is where I am now:  cut threads, getting ready to pull out the offending extra threads and shift the whole side over.  I think it's nap time, don't you?

What's Going On?

  I have no photos to post this week for this blog, but if you go to today, you can read what I've been up to today.
  Other than weaving, I've been busy at work, making pickled beets & strawberries.  We finished the 6852 jars of peanut butter in 8 days--my staff is amazing!--and got back into the pickling business.  It's going slowly, but we do have over 4000 jars done.  The goal is 6900, which I wanted to hit before Christmas, but I just don't know if it's going to be possible.
  I spent yesterday teaching a friend to make bread, but didn't take photos.  It was really fun, but made me realize how small my kitchen is.  We had a good time, though, and lots of bread was made.
  Back to the loom!  Have a great week!

Monday, November 29, 2010


This past year has been a bumpy ride, full of surprises that have ranged from extremely unpleasant to beyond joyful.  And rather than looking back at the end of the calendar year, I prefer to see the beginning of the holiday season as the end of the year.  I found out this past year that I am so lucky to have loving, kind friends who stuck by me when I was at a very low point.  I learned that I'm capable of amazing things.  I may trust too much and want to believe in people despite evidence to the contrary, but plenty of people give me reason to keep believing.

 I spent Thanksgiving at Matt's and Dana's, with Dana's parents, Lisa and her family and the three cats.  We had enforced Origami, tons of good food and beverages and a lot of fun.

 I'm so grateful to have my small army of strong friends who love me and care for me, and whom I love and care for.  Anything is possible, because I have them with me!  Thanks!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's the Peanuttiest!

And so the next adventure begins:  6,900 jars of peanut butter!  The 7,020 pounds of peanuts came in Tuesday, on four pallets, all that was in an 18-wheeler that backed up to our loading dock.  We--five of us--took them off the truck and stacked them at the back dock, then three of us moved them all inside.  Tuesday was the blustery, rainy day this week, if you'll remember, but the storm was polite enough to have a dry break right at the time of peanut delivery.
There are now peanut boxes everywhere in the larder.  Jars fill up any space peanuts aren't taking up.  Most of the jars are stored off-site, in a saddle making factory down the road.  We have to go get them, one pallet at a time.  A pallet holds about 2400 jars.  Yesterday, we made 1,032 jars of peanut butter, 189 the day before, so we are on schedule, and I'm beginning to relax a little.  My right eye's twitch has slowed down somewhat, anyway.  We stopped the pickled beets & strawberries at 2,938, with a mere 3,962.  I firmly believe we can get the peanut butter done by next Wednesday, and be back at the PB&S by the day after Thanksgiving!  WE CAN DO IT!!!  I think...  I'll let you know!
UPDATE:   1008 at 5 pm when I left today; that makes it 2229!  By now, Melanie will have finished enough to make the first shipment of 2300!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Feeling Up-Beet

  Yesterday, my team made 500 jars of pickle beets & strawberries, an absolutely amazing feat.  I'm so proud of everyone for working so diligently at something so monotonous and seemingly endless.  We are up to 2,575 jars, past the first goal of 2,300.  I'd post photos, but you've already seen it:  table tops and ovens full of ruby red jars.  What you haven't seen is our fuschia hands and the beet juice splattered floor at the end of the day.
  We're taking a break from beets starting tomorrow.  Melanie and her helper, Karl, are making over 300 pounds of grain and nut this weekend.  Then we all start on the 6,900 jars of peanut butter.  I had to stop halfway through that sentence to wipe my eye; it's been twitching for the past week, every time I think about all that's left to do.  We need to make 1,000 jars of peanut butter a day to finish it all in a week, but I'm hoping we can do it.  We're buying pre-roasted peanuts, which will make it much easier than previous batches, where we roasted our own.  These pre-roasted peanuts come with a lot of certification that they've been tested for every peanut-borne bacteria and virus known to humans, so we can avoid any unpleasantness.
  As soon as this Beet madness is done, I'm taking a week off.  I need to go to Nashville to see Matt and Dana, and I need some time to not have to be doing something.  The date keeps moving around, according to our beet progress, but I'm hoping for mid December.
 I'm knitting a scarf and hat set for someone for Christmas in some yummy rayon chenille I bought on closeout from Webs.  The hat is done, except for finding the tapestry needle to finish it off.  It's been done for over a week now.  I know I'll find that tapestry needle some day before Christmas!
  The other colors from the same closeout are equally delicious.  The rose color will be another hat and scarf set, as will the gray color, but the red is for me me me!  I'm going to make a luscious red chenille cardigan that I can already imagine wrapping up in.  I picked out a pattern in the Holiday issue of Vogue Knitting, one with a gigantic shawl collar, but I'll have to tweak it, due to gauge concerns.
  This week, the peonies I ordered a month ago showed up.  I was pretty excited, until I opened the box.

Seriously?  This cost $60?  It smells wonderful, like wet dirt, but I'm guessing that when they said "bare root stock," they meant nothing but the bare roots.  Sigh...  Today, I'll be plowing the north forty and probably getting them in the ground tomorrow.  I wonder how long it takes peonies to become established?  They say they last for decades, but these guys are infants!  I'm guessing I won't have those big, blowsy blossoms this coming summer.  Good thing I intend to live here forever!
  Have a glorious fall Saturday!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Beets Me!

Have you ever wondered what 550 pounds of beets looks like?  No?  Why not?  
  Here it is, piled up in the produce sink (yes, I have a sink in my kitchen that is JUST for produce; doesn't everyone?), waiting to be peeled, sliced and made into Pickled Beets & Strawberries.  We need 6900 jars, 16 ounces each.  We started actually pickling them a week ago, but only made enough for the gift shop last week.  This week, we're starting on the 6900 jars.  Day before yesterday, we made 50.  Yesterday, we made 219.  Today, we made 386.  655:  Only 6245 left.  No problem!  

One thing we have discovered is that this is nothing like pickling okra.  Some things are better:  no slime.  Some things are not:  many, many steps to pickled beet bliss.  Here, Dustin is mixing four bags--100 pounds--of sliced beets in the brine.  Remember the consomme that Melanie made for two weeks?  It's in there!  Along with vinegar, spices, water, sugar and salt.  See all those strawberries?  Melanie is cutting them all into chunks tonight while I get ready for bed.

Here are Dustin and Melanie with Shannon, our recruit from the Main House restaurant, hard at work, with the water bath steaming between them and me.  We have two other people from the Barn restaurant helping this coming week, and we are determined to knock this project out in the next 2 1/2 weeks.  I know we can do it!  Wish us luck!

p.s.  I'll say it:  I hate the way Blogger posts photos!  Words get misaligned against the pictures; downloading takes forever and sometimes, they simply disappear, for no obvious reason!  It's frustrating!  If there was a place to complain about it to them, I'd do it!  I just can't figure out how!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dyeing to Have Fun

 Yesterday, on a gorgeous fall day, fiber friends gathered at LouAnn's house to dye together.  Colors were mixed, warps, and sometimes wefts, were laid out in serpentine patterns and art was created.

Here is my bamboo warp for scarves, getting rolled up for its 48 hour rest, if I can wait that long.  I have another, a cotton weft made for the blue baby blankets.  They'll be the subject of tomorrow's entry for Loomy Tunes, where their reveal will be made public.

 Everyone had their own method; Carol's were all very precise, with the color bands very evenly spaced.

 Ann preferred an experimental approach, first striping parallel, and later, dotting overdyed with soft dabs of another color.

 Ila had her sous chef, LaDonna mixing her colors, here a lovely soft red.

Here, a long piece woven by Pat for napkins that turned out too firm became a group-dyed table runner.  Pat plans on making herself a runner first, then bringing the remainder back to the group for another use.  It'll be perfect for her dining room.

 After Tina knitted a bamboo "blank" for LouAnn, many hands were offered to paint it.  Some preferred the variegation of sections rolled up; some liked the more intense colors when the blank was unrolled.
I was one of the first to leave, motivated by talk of Trick or Treating actually happening on the 30th rather than the 31st.  I carved my jack-o-lanterns while keeping an eye out for Trick or Treaters, but by 5:30, determined that my friends were wrong.  But now I'm ready for the little costumed guys and ghouls when they show up tonight.
  Today is garden plowing day!  I have my Crimson Clover seeds and my rye grass seeds; the grass in the garden plot is quite dead and ready to be tilled.  I'm anxious to get started, but the pets decided to wake me up at 3:30, and now I'm up, caffeinated and it's still dark outside.  Maybe I'll go wind a baby blanket warp...
     Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 25, 2010

What is Up

 Have I mentioned that I love fall in east Tennessee?  It's a fact.  The view above is slightly downhill from my kitchen at work.  The view to the right is in front of my kitchen, these beautiful trees lining a walk to the garden.
And here is what was going on this week IN the kitchen.  I started the pickled beets and strawberries, mostly just to test the recipe, after not making it for over a year.  And I made over 300 jars of blackberry jam.  I  know you've seen photos very similar to this before, but it always makes me happy to see miles and miles of jars, ready to be washed, labeled and put away.
 And this is what my backyard looks like, a week after spraying the future flower and vegetable gardens with Round Up.  The black walnut tree has lost all its leaves now.  It's never a photogenic tree, but even fall doesn't improve it.  Every time I suggest to anyone that I'd like to get rid of it, their faces always register shock, so even though I don't like it, it will stay.  It's too far from the house to cause any damage if it falls over, so it'll stay, dropping its nasty nuts all over the place, its paltry shade scattering over the drive.  The best thing about that tree is its wreath of day lilies which bloomed their hearts out this summer.
  Next week, I can scalp the Round Upped areas and till them under.  By then, my new peonies should have arrived, and I'll also be on the prowl for some crepe myrtles.  The veggie garden will get seeded with rye and crimson clover for its winter cover crops.
  The chili's almost ready!  Just what I was craving on this cool, rainy day.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

More Fall Festival Weaving

On Loomy Tunes,, LouAnn posted about teaching straw weaving at the Foothills Fall Festival in Maryville.  We tag-teamed with her, Joyce and Joyce.  Marta's sister in law, Cathy, and her mother in law whose name I promptly forgot helped Marta and I teach everyone we could coerce into learning the magical art of straw weaving.  Who can resist the fun of making fabric from drinking straws and yarn?
I've tried three times to turn this photo upright and can't, but you can clearly see this woman thoroughly enjoyed learning to weave.  Sunday, we will be replaced by knitters, and she promised to come back and learn to knit next.

 The look of concentration on this girl's face was enough to show that we have a new weaver among us.
And this girl kept weaving, no matter what her family wanted to do.  They finally convinced her to leave, but not until we told her she could take her weaving with her.
  We had a great day, in the perfect sunshine, teaching new weavers how exciting it is to make fabric.  There were men and boys weaving, too, but I forgot I had a camera with me until they were gone.  One man, a fourth grade teacher, learned just so he could teach his class to do it.
  We all had a fine afternoon and I'm looking forward to the next time we can do it again!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

And now for something completely different...

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I'm not from here.  In the land I'm from, we don't eat okra, and tomatoes are meant to be eaten red.  And while you know how I feel about okra, I have to tell you that I've embraced the green tomato.  I love it in salsa; fried is delightful; pickled?  Well, pickled, with lots of lovely roasted peppers and jalapenos and Vidalia onions, some pickling spice and sweet peppers:  Perfectly delicious!
  What puzzles me, though, is that when I was first told about green tomatoes, I was given to believe that they were only available after the very first frost, that frost that kills the tomato plants.  I was told that on that first frosty morning, one was to run out to the tomato patch and pick all the green guys one could find and quickly fry all one could eat that moment and pickle the rest.  I liked that story.  The sense of urgency, the seizing the moment, that one last tiny bit of summer that you could really grab and take control of.
  Not so, dear friends!  Apparently, much like botox trying to cheat wrinkles, tomato farmers pick green tomatoes all season long and put them in coolers to arrest their development, until a consumer asks for them.  You can even buy them in the dead of winter, though they probably come from Bolivia or Guatemala or someplace else warm in December.
  I heard it was supposed to be in the 40's tonight, so I bought mine a couple of days ago, close enough to being the actual season in which they are supposed to be available.  Yesterday, Melanie and I got through three bushels, which was actually more than I thought it would be, and got 140 jars of them, pickled with peppers we'd spent the previous week chopping, plus some roasted peppers Abby froze earlier this summer.

I should have gotten a photo of the jars before they went in the water bath last night, but I didn't.  I wanted to get home so I could go to the First Friday Art Walk in Knoxville with LouAnn.  Her son Nick and his girlfriend Dana had an exhibit at Lox Salon in the Old City.  I bought a lovely little painting.
   I'm not sure where it will go yet, but it will find a home.  With three cats in the house, I'm sure it will be the only rodent brave enough to live here.

Today, the AVL goes away.  Friends are coming by to help take it apart and Pat will put it in her van to deliver to its new owner.  My back loominaria will become a sewing room/office.  This computer and desk will move back there, and the sewing stuff will stretch out and become comfortable.  Bella's kennel will move out of my bedroom, making my room the oasis of calm beauty it used to be.  Weftie will have to find a new place to be "up," but I have confidence that he will.  Leo never ventured higher on the loom than this photo, but he's not as brave as he used to be.

  Be brave, venture out into this beautiful fall day and have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Apples, apples everywhere!

 Yes, friends, it's apple time!  I love cooking apples almost as much as I love cooking peaches.  Even though I'm slightly allergic to cinnamon, I love the smell of it with other spices.
  My favorite apple for apple butter is the Stayman Winesap, and here are a whole bunch of them.  They're tart and sweet and crispy, and really, really juicy.  I can peel, slice and core one bushel in one hour, thanks to my lovely peeler, corer, slicer thing-a-ma-jig that I forgot to take a photo of.
  I didn't forget the recipe, though.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments section.  Be sure to wear long sleeves because this stuff splatters and sticks.  I have a blister on my index finger to prove it!

Yield - approximately 12-  12 oz. jars

10 lb. apples, peeled, cored and sliced  
5 lb. golden cane sugar
2.5 lb. commercial apple cider
5 oz. lemon juice
5 oz. Brandy
1 oz. vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon sea salt

In a deep pot, bring all ingredients to a full, rolling boil, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and pour into a clean, dry container.  Cover the surface with parchment paper, allow to cool  and cover with a lid.  Refrigerate over night.  The next day, blend the ingredients as smoothly as possible.  Pour into a deep pot and bring to a full, rolling boil.  Cook on high to medium-high heat (beware of splattering), until mixture holds its shape on a spoon and is thick.  Blend again, if necessary and jar immediately

I had to stop for lunch, though!  Homemade bread, my peanut butter and mmmmmm!  Chocolate milk from Cruze Farm!  It was yummy!  And then I started working on recipes for the new cookbook.  The one thing I didn't have a recipe for was the apple sauce upside down cake.  I made the apple sauce first thing this morning, then sketched out a cake formula.  The monkey wrench in the works was that the caramel had to have espresso grounds in it.  Yep!  Coffee in my caramel!  
Here's the cake:
I took a bite and all I could taste was the espresso!  I was worried about the coffee taste and the lack of spice in the cake, so I took pieces of it around to my co-workers to get more input.  Here's the funny thing:  the men couldn't taste the coffee and the women thought it was too much!  I still haven't gotten the input from my biggest bosses, one of whom asked for the coffee in the caramel.  I hope they like it!