first tomato of the summer.

I broiled half of it on toast with cheese and basil, and I ate the other half with my hands. Hooray for the first tomato of summer!

Also, hooray for whisper! I’m starting to think I might need another. I absolutely love the neckline, and I’d love a longer version…

Here’s another knit in action: my very first wedding pinwheel blanket. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this particular knit in all kinds of use — as a lap blanket, as a spot for a catnap, as a baby blanket, and last night, as a pillow for my favorite greyhound. The Cascade 220 I knit it out of seems to be holding up quite well, as I knit this during the summer of 2008.

Here’s another sleepy dog. I bet he wishes he had a pinwheel blanket for a pillow. Someday, Boh. Someday.

I’m gearing up for a research road trip, so yesterday I began the process of cleaning out my car. I don’t think I’ve ever actually emptied my car of cds. (I normally stick to clearing out the back, not all of the little compartments.) Anyway, it was fun to see just how many mixes I’ve received from friends since I bought my car six years ago. I spent some time trying out and then labeling all of the unmarked cds, ditching and re-burning the scratched ones, and putting them into books and cases. (I’m super glad that I import mixes I get in the mail to my computer before playing them over and over and over again. That way I don’t worry about breaking the cd!) That is the fun part of research road trip prep.

Lots more to do this week before I hit the road: finalize what I want to look at, confirm travel/housing plans, buy more dog food, pack…and grade the term papers from the summer course! Happy weekend to you!

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FO: floating down.

Which, incidentally, also describes my back pain: floating down in intensity. I’ve got a massage scheduled for as soon as I’m done teaching tomorrow morning, and that should make it a lot better. Thank you for all of your kind comments. I’ve been trying to take it easy while still getting  my work done. It’s going to be another busy week… (I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot this semester!) Anyway, do you want to see some handspun?

I thought so.

This is Hello Yarn 75% BFL/25% Tussah Silk in Floating Down, spun as singles. I ended up with just over 400 yards of this delicious stuff. What should I make?

Boh is excited.

Or not. (Silly, silly dog.)

We took a long, slow walk with a friend and her dog on Friday, which seemed to help with my back twinge. Along the way, we saw this bald eagle! (Apologies for the poor photo quality — I took this with my iphone, and zoomed in as much as I could.)

We also saw this Great Blue Heron. Boh and Madigan were too busy focusing on all the Canadian Geese to notice.

I got sorrel in my CSA box this week, and sauteed it with butter and onions and leftover rice. It was delicious.

And last night, I made a big batch of Heidi’s Millet Fried Rice, from Super Natural Cooking. I’d forgotten how much I like millet — and how much I like this recipe. Basically, you cook the millet, and when that’s almost done, you make a super thin egg pancake, by melting butter with some toasted sesame oil in a large pan, beating a couple of eggs as if to make an omelette, and then pouring in the egg. You swirl the eggs around to get a really thin layer, and then fold the eggs over on themselves once they are cooked enough to let you do that. Shortly after that, you remove the egg from the pan, and then stirfry whatever veggies you’re using in a super hot pan, and then you add the millet, some soy sauce, and then you slice the egg pancake into strips and add that, too. I topped mine with onion sprouts and some canned roasted red pepper, both from my spring CSA box. I might have eaten this for lunch and dinner today, too.

Also, last night was Earth Hour, and I participated by turning off as much electricity as possible in my home, and lighting some candles to read by. While I believe that lifestyle activism on its own isn’t enough, I like doing this, and it is nice to remind myself how much I enjoy turning everything off for awhile. I certainly recognize my own privilege in all of this –and that not everyone has the power to make this choice. Still, this is about mindfulness for me. I didn’t really plan ahead, in terms of what I might read, so I was scrambling for something as the official time approached.

I ended up spending part of my hour reading some Mary Oliver poems. The book I’m teaching this week opens with Oliver’s Wild Geese” as the epigraph, which I read to my students on Wednesday. It begins, “You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees/ For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.” It was nice to read it by candlelight.

Looks like today’s photos are all in pairs. I like it. Also, Happy April!

green and partly dilly.

First up: dilly beans. Now I’ve got at least 10 pints on the shelf, which should be enough to both enjoy at home and share. (I actually ran out of pint jars yesterday, and had to pick up another tray on my way home from the farm!) Dilly beans are always more time intensive than I think — mostly because I never trim my beans to exactly the right length, and I always have to re-trim as I’m packing the jars. These are totally worth the hassle, though, and I’m psyched to taste these after they spend a few weeks mellowing and pickling.

I also made Kaela’s Chile Verde Base — this stuff is delicious, and so simple: tomatillos, garlic, hot peppers, and cilantro. Basically, you partially roast the first two, and throw all the ingredients in a food processor. I’m going to make another batch of this later. Storing this in the freezer to use as a base for soups and sauces prompted me to clean out the freezer. (Stock from 2008? Green chiles from the Southwest that I did too good of a job hoarding? I’m looking at you.) Now there’s room for lots more chile verde base! Oh, and berries. I might have frozen what we picked on Saturday as incentive to do a good job picking yesterday…

I had plenty of dill remaining from the beans, so I tied the longer stems into a bunch and hung them near the window to dry. I absolutely love the idea of home-dried herbs, and I am excited to use these in my cooking this fall and winter.

Just when I finally had the week’s produce under control, farm day came around again. The boy and I spent the afternoon picking blackberries, raspberries, more cherry tomatoes, more paste tomatoes, flowers, hot peppers, tomatillos, and a whole tote bag full of chard. I’m planning to blanch and freeze this later today. And make more salsa or chile verde base with all the tomatillos.

Also, I might have accidentally visited the orchard yesterday. (Hey, it was on the way home from taking friend K. to have her stitches out!) We might both have accidentally walked away with 8 quarts of peaches. (For 8 bucks.) Oh, and a few apples. Despite being the last peaches of the season (and labeled as “culls”), these are gorgeous. I’m going to cut one up and tuck it into my bowl of granola in a moment…and then I’m going to dedicate another fifteen minutes or so to daydreaming about what these should become. Jam? Butter? Peaches in some kind of (boozey) syrup? More on that soon.

For those of you who come hear for the fiber (and not the food), never fear. I’ll have knitterly things back in the rotation soon. I’ve got another week (or so?) of farmy abundance to process, but once the first frost arrives, I’ll be able to happily gaze at my shelves of winter preparation and get back to my knitting and spinning!

tomatillo, -illo, illo.

Pronounced incorrectly, the word “tomatillo” calls to mind a certain pop song (circa 2007). Not exactly my preferred genre, but the suggestion of said song does make me smile, if only because the memory a particularly enthusiastic ’round the campfire acoustic version takes over in my brain and makes me think of my time in the Southwest. What else makes me think of the Southwest? Tomatillos. (-illos, -illos…)

And now I have to tell you about a new blog that I’ve read cover to cover since I came across it on Friday morning: local kitchen. Kaela makes everything from salsa and mustard to jams and booze-y preserves, and it is all beautifully photographed and thoughtfully described. Swoon. My adventures in blog-reading on Friday evening may have prompted me to print out a slew of ideas for my kitchen binder. And then I had to retire my kitchen binder and transfer everything to a bigger 3-ring set up. That’s how great Kaela’s blog is. Local Kitchen was a timely find — here I was, with a kitchen counter COVERED in farm produce, and without a good idea for what all of that deliciousness was going to become.

First up, Kaela’s Salsa Verde. Tomatillos, green peppers, hot peppers, onion, garlic, cilantro…yum. I might make another batch this week.

Next? Cherry Tomato Confit, also from Local Kitchen. The boy and I went to the farm on Saturday to pick more produce before the season’s first frost, and several of the cherry tomatoes were literally splitting as we picked them — bursting with juice and flavor. I took a pint of these and slow-roasted them in the oven, turning them into Cherry Tomato Confit, and now there is a tiny 4 oz. jar in the fridge filled with the powerful flavors of sweet tomatoes, basil, parsley, thyme, garlic, and olive oil. On pasta? On pizza? Straight out of the jar?

I also harvested several big handfuls of mint to hang to dry in the kitchen (also something I learned from Local Kitchen). I love these pictures so much. Something about the vibrant greens.

And that isn’t even the whole of my Local Kitchen-inspired weekend adventures. Yesterday I may have been saying aloud (to anyone who would listen), “I don’t want to be a grad student right now. I just want to play in the kitchen.” Sigh.

And I do actually very much want to be a grad student. I’d just really like to press pause on life for a week in order to focus on preparing my kitchen for winter.

More produce, and even some spinning next time!

jam/toast.

Friday morning, tomato jam and goat cheese on toast. This was exactly what I needed to start the last day of the (school) week. The jam is very sweet at first, and then the flavors smooth out a bit and there is a nice kick (from the chili flakes) at the end of a bite. I was concerned about the consistency of the jam — seemed a bit loose to me — but this was well within the range of the jam category, though I spread it with a spoon instead of a knife. I’ve been reading a bunch of food blogs that focus on preserving, and I’ve seen some discussion about how flavors mellow and meld as canned food sits on the shelf. Or in the fridge. This makes sense — the last jar of my summer 2009 dilly beans were different than the earlier jars. And some meals that are just alright as dinner are incredible as leftovers.

So I like this! It appeals to my love of savory breakfast food, and I’m interested to see if the flavors in this jam mellow over the next few weeks (for the jar in the fridge) and months (for the jars stacked on the shelf). My next plan is to slather this stuff on grilled cheese, and to think about using it as a sweet/spicy homemade alternative to ketchup (and someday, I’ll try my hand at making my own ketchup!).

Also, Friday morning it was chilly enough for a fleece vest and my handspun (knitted) toast. (I swear I wasn’t thinking about blog post content when I both ate jam on toast and then put on a pair of toast. But it works, doesn’t it? Silly rooster.)

Speaking of silliness, somehow the boy managed to get Boh perched on a chair. And then Boh serenely gazed out the window.

On Friday night, after a long week, we curled up and watched a movie, which meant that I finally picked up my idlewood. I am super close to separating the sleeves from the yoke. And I am super excited about this sweater.

Also, remember all that produce I posted about? Stay tuned for a whole slew of kitchen adventures…

tomato jam.

Last night I made tomato jam. And even though incredible aromas filled my entire apartment, I think I need to take my own advice next time and avoid evening canning. See, the recipe calls for allowing the tomato mixture to simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours, in order for it to get all sticky and jammy. And after 1.5 hours, I stirred my mixture and thought to myself, “Well…it isn’t quite thick enough, but it has been an hour and a half, and I am tired, so I’ll go for it.” Then, I packed the jars (mostly tiny jars and a few half pints) with a ladle. I think a slotted spoon might have been a better idea, in order to create a stickier jam. (The strawberry-balsamic jam recipe that I love uses a slotted spoon, and separates the gooey bits from the thinner syrup.)

All that said, I am excited to try this, and am hoping that the water bath/cooling time has helped a bit with the congealing. And in the future? I’ll start this in the morning, so that my tiredness is not a factor in deciding when my jam is jammy.

I haven’t tasted this stuff yet, but I’m guessing it is amazing. I had a pint or two leftover, due to the small size of the jars I had handy, so I tucked that into the fridge. Planning to spread it on toast with some goat cheese for breakfast…I’ll report back.

the forecast.

The farmers at the CSA I belong to send out an email with the week’s “veggie forecast.” This week’s report suggested that the nights are getting cooler, and that a lot of the crops available for picking will likely last only until the first frost…which might be here sooner than we think. So, yesterday, instead of knitting sleeves as a break from my reading, I decided to spend an extra hour at the farm. I gathered at least 15 quarts of paste tomatoes, a canvas bag full of green beans, and a few handfuls of tomatillos for salsa — all in addition to the week’s share (onions, peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, salad mix, basil, parsley, potatoes, leeks).

Looks like that veggie forecast has turned into a bit of a rooster forecast — I think I know what I’ll be doing this weekend! (Preserving. I just saw a recipe for tomato jam that looks pretty yummy, I’d love to can a few more quarts of tomatoes for the shelf, and I can always use more dilly beans…)

Also, I couldn’t help myself. I picked a huge armful of zinnias — the fields are still practically overflowing with them. Yesterday was the first farm day that felt like fall, and the cooler temperatures made it much easier for me to linger in the rows of herbs, flowers, and veggies.

I had about a quart of handpicked paste tomatoes that had ripened nicely in the fridge yesterday, and the plan was to make a small pot of sauce. I actually finished the book I had set out to read yesterday, so I decided to do something more elaborate — homemade noodles. This was the first time I’ve ever hand-cut noodles to a fettucine-ish width, and boy, do I need some more practice. Despite their irregularities, the noodles were delicious. We ate them immediately, with some homemade sauce. (And I didn’t even think to take a picture. My stomach was too excited about dinner.)

I do, however, have some non-pajama action shots of my textured shawl to share.

This is slightly too scratchy to be worn super close to my neck, but draped a bit more loosely, it adds a nice amount of warmth. It is also perfect to wrap around my shoulders while curled up on the couch. This will certainly be in my rotation of warm things this fall and winter — and I think it might look really nice with my Kerrera! Extra motivation to start those sleeves later today…