extension week 4

These has been some amazing days on the farm, one that began with a deep breath last week at this time. We had a jam packed weekend of farm guests, trunk or treating, Cinderella, and George’s season’s end departure. Each of these is worthy of telling, but I must make some choices. This week, you can hear the tale of our big trip to Ohio Valley Natural Fibers. Since the onset of our careers as shepherds in 2006, we have been thinking and planning, scheming and trying to make useable wool products from our sheep’s annual gift to the farm: their shorn fleeces. Lately, many shepherds are turning towards a breed Katahdin, sheep that shed, also known as hair sheep. This choice eliminates the need for the annual shearing. Paul and I have chosen an old time breed, Jacob’s sheep,one that is good for both wool and meat. Why remove the opportunity for another farm product we wonder? With countless hours hand shearing and for the past 2 years electric shearing, Paul has actually become quite adept at removing the pounds of annual growth in good time and shape. Once we had all of these amazing bags of wool, the issue soon became, how does this become yarn or roving or anything useable to plain old me and others like me? For a fleece to make it to yarn, it must be washed (take care, hot water and agitation leads to felt!), picked (sheep’s fleeces will pick up all types of vegetable matter if care is not taken with their feeding and housing), carded (once clean, the fibers are brushed so they all lie in the same direction). From here it must be spun, either by hand or machine. We have worked with a local hand spinner for most of those years, but hand spinning is slow work and despite the beauty of the yarn our spinner has produced, she was not able to keep up with the ever growing supply of fleeces. We did some research and found a small, family owned fiber mill just over the Ohio river in Sardinia. We have been trying to get there for years. The reality of transporting ourselves and over a hundred bags of wool was daunting. Year after year the trip eased its way closer and closer to the top of the “to do” list and finally this year, full of the success of the 2011 season, we planned it, booked it, did it! Arrangements had to made: Sasha and Andy stayed back at the farm, took care of all the livestock and priority farm work. Madeline stayed over at Grandmom’s house. Paul and I were free to travel with just William. We felt like youngsters, traveling like the old days when it was just Sasha next to me in the infant car seat. The mill had an apartment so we could spend the night there. With a van loaded with wool, off we went at dawn on Tuesday. The flawless journey north, with friendly stops at our friend Katie’s Louisville coffee shop and former apprentice Megan and Todd’s Facing West Farm in Henry County, KY, we made it to our rural Ohio destination late on Tuesday afternoon. We toured with awe the facility housing the gigantic carding and spinning machines. We read book after book on knitting and felting in their well stocked library. We asked question after question and joyed in the answers: our fleeces we fabulous and the team at OVNF were going to transform them into yarns: brown, gray, speckled, white, all as gorgeous as our flock! Happily we headed home, proud of our trip, our sheep, our farm, ourselves. This year just keeps getting better and better.

Radish Butter on Toasted Baguette
From Martha Stewart
8 medium radishes (about 1 bunch), cleaned, root ends trimmed
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
One 8-ounce baguette
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grate radishes on the large holes of a box grater; place on paper towels, and squeeze out excess liquid. Combine radishes and butter in a small bowl; mix well. Slice baguette in half lengthwise, and place in oven; toast until crisp and browned. Remove from oven, and cool slightly. Spread radish mixture on toasted baguette; season with salt and pepper. Slice each half into four pieces, and serve.
Pasta with Butternut Squash and Pecans also from Martha Stewart
1 pound tubular pasta, such as strozzapreti or penne
1 butternut squash (2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, thinly sliced
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 cup, fresh ricotta cheese
Fill a saucepan fitted with a steamer basket with 1/2-inch water and bring to a boil over high heat. Place squash in steamer basket and cook, covered, until easily pierced with the tip of a knife, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.In a medium skillet over medium heat, cook butter, stirring, until melted and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add pecans and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Add squash and stir gently to combine; season with salt and pepper. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt water and return to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and return to pot. Add olive oil and parsley and season with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Divide pasta evenly between 4 plates and spoon squash mixture on top of pasta. Sprinkle over parmesan and top each with a dollop of ricotta. Drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately

In your basket:
radishes
kale
Swiss chard
greens choice
butternut squash
garlic

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