Friday, April 18, 2014

Marblized Paper and Fabric Bag Inspired by Bibliocraft

Yesterday I introduced you all to Bibliocraft, a new STC/Melanie Falick Book including a collection of 20 craft projects inspired by library collections. You can read more about it here and enter the giveaway. The opening "library inspired design" in the Projects section of the book was based on marbled paper. It is a small sewn bag made of ink jet printed fabric.

 

I've been in love with marbled paper for many years. On a business trip to Florence many years ago, I visited one of the beautiful stores that specialize in stationery products and more made from handmade marbled paper. I bought some pencils that I still use today. Here is the section where marbled paper are explained. You can download one of the designs from the STC site once you buy the book. 


The designer Jodi Kahn scanned some marbled paper and then printed the scanned image on fabric that can be run through an inkjet printer. She then laminated the fabric with a vinyl iron-on product called Heat'n Bond Iron-On Vinyl.

I just happened to have some marbled paper that I many years ago when we had an "art group" in our little town. The art group is mostly defunct now - but back in the day, we would meet at a different home every month. The host would prepare some kind of artsy project for us all to do. At Merry Lien's home we made our own marbled paper. We followed a technique just like I found on the Martha Stewart website here. I could never bring myself to use the paper because it was so beautiful. 

Upon seeing the Marbled Fabric Pouch in Bibliocraft, I decided to give it a try. I found my paper which is quite amazing -- if you saw the piles of stuff I have in my studio/home. I need to make some more of this paper. It is so pretty and it was so much fun to do. I found a kit for sale which would be a quick way to start. 


I have always heard you could print fabric on an inkjet printer by ironing fabric to a piece of freezer paper to make it sturdy. I had a free moment and gave it a try. I scanned my marbled paper. I cut a piece of freezer paper to 8 1/2 x 11" and ironed to white 100% linen fabric. Fingers crossed, I sent it through the printer and here's what came out. You can see my marbled paper on top and 2 pieces of fabric on the photo below. If you look close, you'll see a difference in the color in the two fabrics - the yellow ink was low on the first piece. I fixed that and the colors were more true to the original piece of paper. Pretty cool I must say.


I did this knowing my fabric will run. I did not use a product called Bubble Jet Set which sets the ink. I did not know what I was doing nor did I go ahead and research and buy proper supplies. Maybe someone who reads this blog is better informed about printing on ink jet printers onto fabric. (Hint hint - add a link in the comments and I'll it to this post at the end about printing on fabric.) From what I can tell, you need a dye based printer as opposed to a pigment based printer to make the fabric safe for washing. My printer is an Epson Artisan printer and I have a strong suspicion it is pigment based as opposed to dye based. I was just trying to experiment and have some fun. 

I used a product called Heat'nBond and fused my marbled fabric to a piece of linen to make it stronger and thicker. I like Heat'nBond a lot - very useful and it made my linen fabric more substantial. Then I followed the directions sort of - I improvised some and made this little bag. With an orange zipper.....


I'll use it for my crochet hooks. Hope I don't get it wet or need to wash it. I suppose the vinyl fabric laminating sheets would solve that problem because the fabric would then be protected from water. Another thing to look for. 


I don't have a lot of time to be fooling with new crafts and projects but this was a fun break from my normal stitching. I'm not sure I'll be printing fabric again on my printer but I can see how I can use the scan and send it over to Spoonflower for them to print. Their fabric is washable.

Thanks to Jessica for Bibliocraft, to Jodi Kahn for the idea, Merry for the original class in marbled paper and STC/Melanie Falick Books for supplying the book for the giveaway. Enter here before the end of the day Monday

Good luck everyone.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Friends, Bibliocraft + a New Book Giveaway

A few weeks ago, my friends Alice, Cathy and Cynthia met up in the center of the state for lunch - halfway for all of us in Leominster (pronounced Lemonster if you live in Massachusetts). It was just what I needed after this really long winter. These friends are kindred creative spirits and when we get together we always share what we are making, gossip about industry and crafting news, and how things are generally going in our lives. 

  
It was sort of like an old-fashioned sewing circle without the sewing because we were tucked into the corner of a busy Panera Restaurant and I doubt they would have liked it if we stayed longer than we did. After lunch, we discovered a huge Jo-Ann's Fabric Store. I'm not a fan of chains but now with the loss of so many indie fabric stores, this chain is one of the last catering to the home sewer and crafter. The one we visited was stocked with all kinds a fantastic products. Seriously, I have never been in a nicer Jo-Ann's. It had an incredible selection of quilting fabrics, all kinds of tools for sewing, embroidery, quilting, scrapbooking supplies, cake decorating, books. The lighting was good and the staff friendly and helpful.

At lunch, there were some knitting projects shared and Cynthia knit while we chatted. She was having a bit of a problem with instructions she didn't understand and Alice had the answer. Alice had on a beautiful guernsey sweater from an old Rowan mag. Cathy smuggled in some of her outrageous homemade brownies that we ate after lunch. I brought a few review copies of some new books, including the one I am writing about today - Bibliocraft by Jessica Pigza


It is fun when you get to dish with friends about a new book. Of the three books I had with me, this was by far the favorite of all my friends. Here is why - it is extremely useful if you are a designer or crafter making things and being inspired by things of the past. The author Jessica Pigza is a Rare Book Librarian who works at the NY Public Library. Can you imagine that job? Really - to be close to the collections of some of the most amazing things in the world in one of the biggest cities in the world. Seriously - this girl is lucky. 


What we all liked about this book is that it had what I call "meat" or maybe you might call substance. In the beginning of Bibliocraft, she explains things about libraries that I didn't know existed. From the library system (branch, research, special collections), to how to find the right library for you (mindblowing info here), to how to plan a library visit (yes - there is a proper way), to how to search. Bibliocraft explains things that I think only librarians know and she does it in a way normal people can understand. Jessica introduces Digital Libraries (with all kinds of links to stumble down that rabbit hole of endless information on the web). 


Then there is the chapter on Library Collections - this information for an artist, crafter, and maker is pretty amazing. It is a listing of sources of collections of books - where to go to find inspirational things from craft, home economics, book arts, costume, children's books and more - a lot more

There is a section on Copyright and what is right and what is wrong to do. There are a lot of people who should read this! She tells her reader what is acceptable and what is not to take and use. 


After all this incredibly useful information, there are 20 projects that are designed by "in" crafters, authors, and names in design including but not limited to Jodi Kahn, Mary Corbet , Anna Bondoc, Haley Pierson-Cox, Heather Ross, Natalie Chanin, Grace Bonney, Liesl Gibson, Rebecca Ringquist and more - many are STC authors which should be no surprise since STC/Melanie Falick Crafts published the book. Here is a giant cross-stitch on pegboard by Hailey Pierson-Cox inspired by Illuminated Manuscripts.

 Some of the projects are super simple but some more complicated and need more crafting or sewing skills. Each project is followed with a two page spread about the antique "book thing" that inspired it. Here is Rebecca Ringquist's cartouche inspired embroidery....


   
These are Molly Schnick's Japanese Heraldry Coasters.....


inspired by these beautiful graphics - what we might now call "logos." 


Bibliocraft isn't your normal craft book because it is so jam full of useful information. Sure you could find it on the web but this is all in one spot that you can keep on your bookshelf for reference. Maybe if you are a librarian you know all this - and I know there are some of you who are! But if you are like me - this is a very helpful book. If you are a knitter or crocheter, you probably wouldn't look at this book if you heard about it - there are no knit or crochet projects in it. But if you are into other art and crafts and like to dabble in all kinds of projects, this book will be very useful. 

Tomorrow I will share with you a project I made inspired by Bibliocraft. For today, I've got a giveaway for one lucky reader.

Answer the following question in the comments section:

Tell me your favorite library or book story. It can be something that happened to you at a library, someone you met at a library or book store who changed your life or a book that means something special to you. Can't wait to hear your stories because I always learn something new about my readers through these giveaways. Thanks for entering and reading.

Contest ends Monday April 21st (Boston Marathon Day!) at 11:59 p.m. As always, please leave an easy way to get a hold of you - email, Rav id, Blogger id. US addresses only!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Thank You Stan Rosenberg

This post is long overdue. In fact, it is one year and 60 days past due. If you are a longtime follower of this blog, you know that we live in the boonies. It is beautiful here and I do love the freedom of not having many neighbors. If I want to feed my chickens in my underwear, it is a possible. Watching hawks flying overhead in our pasture, being surprised by an owl swooping out of the woods, viewing turkeys and deer in the orchard every morning, and walking with our dogs on our road for 3 miles without anyone passing me is something I really love and cherish and do not take for granted. Not everything is honky-dory here. Gas is expensive and I can't do anything without driving 20 minutes one way. (I practice "trip-chaining".) If I lock myself mistakenly in the chicken pen, noone is going to find me for hours.

I work from home so communication on the internet is really important for what I do - writing books, maintaining our 2 websites, updating this blog, and general communication. For many years, I lived with very slow dial-up service. I can't believe I ever thought to start this blog back in 2006. It took forever to upload photos - watching the little circle spin around and around while I was thinking of everything I needed to do. I never had the patience to comment on anyone's blog because it would take 5 minutes or more for the process to even begin. Sadly, I haven't developed the internet friendships so many other bloggers have.

Our little town hall which has high speed internet
As communication changed, high speed internet service became possible in urban and suburban areas serviced by cable and the phone companies. The only problem was that small rural communities like ours did not receive high speed internet service - we were left behind. Eventually our town hall and library got satellite service and I bought a laptop when my desktop computer died so that I could sit in my car and work on my blog and upload photos. In the winter, in the summer, late at night --- anything to work faster and spend less time waiting. I would drop Julia off at the elementary school and head to "my office" in my car in the Town Hall Parking Lot. It was progress. Eventually, they gave me a key so I could sit inside. (You have to love small town America!) 

Bernardston's Cushman Library
For hours and hours, I would sit in my car - at the Bernardston library, at the Leyden Town Hall or if I felt like driving further at internet cafe in the big town 20 minutes from here. It wasn't the best but it is what I did. There are a lot of people that live rurally in our local area in the same situation - artists, students, business people, writers, college professors... We are all expected to be available digitally at a moment's notice. That is just how the world has become.

The pond that sits beside Cushman Library in Bernardston. It is full of critters
It was announced that high speed internet service would come to our small town. The catch was your home had to be so and so feet from the magic switching box. I drove the road and thought we were safe. My close neighbors and I waited in anticipation until we would be able to catch up with the rest of the world. 

The service came in the fall of 2010. We waited and waited until we got the call that we would be hooked up. But that didn't happen. For some unforseen reason, our road, along with several other roads in town were passed by. Throwing up my hands in disgust, I purchased something called an "air card" which cost $250 (it is the size of a credit card). The air card service costs $87 per month for lousy high speed limited in hours service - but it was better than dial-up. I still had to go to the Town Hall to do large file transfers or upload video. Watching video wasn't an option because the air card was too slow and our bandwidth was limited.

During these two years I called Verizon repeatedly checking on the possibility of DSL service at our home - explaining the situation. I was always told they would check on it. Once I was promised that an engineer would check out our situation. It never happened.  And then I found out that my neighbors 2 doors away had somehow gotten DSL service. WHAAAATTTTTT? Every Verizon truck I saw, I would stop and talk to the repair guys. They would feel my pain but there was nothing they could do.

I called Verizon to check on service so many times as did all the rest of the neighbors. We all got the same message - it isn't possible. The service came to town but the outlying roads were too far away. We wouldn't get high speed service. I continued to call Verizon - hoping the message would change and by some miracle DSL would be available. All I could imagine was I was talking to someone in Texas or New Jersey in a giant building. Did they really care about how the lack of internet service was impacting my business? No - they could care less.

I was at a loss for what else to do. I thought back to when I was in 4th grade and was desperate for a pony for Christmas. We had the space but farm animals were against zoning rules. I wrote Mayor Hedden and pleaded my case. I didn't get a pony (do you think my Mom and Dad were in cahouts with the Mayor?) but my sister and I did land on the front page of the local paper with the headline "Mayor Hedden Plays Scrooge." 

One November day in 2012, I sat myself down and poured my heart out to the President of Verizon. I told him about my on-line business, our farm, our websites, about sitting in the car outside the Town Hall. I told him how the lack of DSL service was affecting our family. I sent him maps showing all the houses that had service, highlighting the position of the "magic box". I figured why not copy some of my public officials. What the heck - it couldn't hurt. I cc-ed Governor Deval Patrick who I had heard speak at a local town hall (45 minutes from here) about bringing high speed internet service to "the last mile." We are living in "last mile land." I also cc-ed our State Senator Stan Rosenberg. I figured I had nothing to lose.

Two days before Thanksgiving in 2012, I got a phone call from NYC from a woman named Irma. She worked for Verizon and told me she would be working on my case. I was dumbfounded and stunned. She made me no promises. I was to call her once a month on the first Tuesday. At the end of the conversation, she told me that my case had been given to her because Senator Rosenberg's office had contacted Verizon on my behalf.

I hung up the phone shaking. I was in disbelief. I asked myself "Did that really happen? Will we really be able to catch up with the rest of the world?" I know - crazy - but I couldn't believe someone had finally listened after my years of calling and pleading.

In early December 2012, I got a call from a young woman named Caitlyn from Senator Rosenberg's office. She told me she was working to get us high speed service and was in contact with Verizon. I thanked her and then just hoped. Another month went by and nothing. But I kept calling Irma - she never answered the phone but I did not give up - I kept calling. In February, Caitlyn called again asking me how the high speed service was? I told her I still didn't have it. "Gee, that is weird - they told me they had hooked you up." 

A week later I got a call from Verizon. The woman wanted to make an appointment to have a technician come set up our high speed service. I was speechless. School vacation was that week and Julia and I were going to my sister's for a winter break. But yes, we could come back and wait for the technician.

That is how we got high speed internet service. I cannot believe the difference it has made in our lives. First off, the DSL is $22 per month as opposed to $87/month. And it is fast. Julia can watch videos and t.v. shows if she likes. I don't have to go to the Town Hall to upload photos and files. I can watch videos on Lynda.com to learn what I need to keep current with computer programs I use. I can update my blog quickly as opposed to a post taking forever to load. The Farmer can research sheep illnesses when needed and learn from other sheep farmers via an internet forum. It really is amazing. 

This is my shout-out to Senator Rosenberg and his staff. Thank you for helping us. This was the very first time in my over five decades that I actually reached out to government. The fact that they helped me get DSL by contacting Verizon is really amazing to me. And the fact that Verizon responded is even more amazing. This experience gives me faith in government and the power of the connection. 

THANK YOU STAN ROSENBERG AND THANK YOU TO YOUR AWESOME STAFF.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Collage and Coasters

My knitting friend Lisa sent me this beautiful collage. Lisa is a writer, artist, knitter, and lover of color. You can read her blog here. I was so happy to receive this collage in my inbox. I don't often hear much from knitters who make my designs. I don't poke around on Ravelry very much so I remain in the dark. Thanks Lisa - beautiful job on all the projects (she writes about them on her blog here). The mittens were in an old issue of Vogue Knitting but the other patterns are available on my website. Check out my version of the mittens here.


According to the NY Times, coasters are the hot new home accessory. Who'd have thunk?


The gist of the article is that with the rise of Etsy, coasters have become a "thing" for artists and makers to sell via their on-line shops. The popularity of cocktails has also added to the renewal of this old-fashioned tabletop accessory. I think coasters are the perfect touch for a tabletop. They also make a nice wedding or shower gift.


I suppose I was ahead of the curve with my Swirly Twirly knit and felted coaster pattern. It is a great stash-busting project and includes several different Home Dec accessories. My Swirly Twirly pattern available on my website here or on Ravelry here



It is a beautiful spring day here at the farm. Green should be happening soon. It is still rather bleak as you can see in the photo I took last night as the sun was setting. Hope you enjoy your day wherever you are. 


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Color By Moi and Some Good Links

First off - the fine folks at Webs are celebrating their 40th Anniversary. They have a big sale going on so hop on over and see all the beautiful yarns. My yarn - COLOR BY KRISTIN - is discounted from $9.95 to $6.99. The sale goes through the end of May. Here's your chance to stock up some of the gorgeous colors. 



Better yet, order the yarn and start an afghan like Adaliza did. Check out her gorgeous afghan and the tutorial here. It is never too early to think about Fall knitting.

I'm excited about this new cookbook/memoir. David writes about the making and writing of it here.

Would like to have a look at this book by blogger Ashley English and it is published by my new publisher Roost. Nice post on her blog with lots of beautiful photos, a giveaway chance and a project here.

Only a textile artist would see the beauty in this

One of my photos was featured on the Zester Daily website. This photo is for Persian Lamb and Rhubarb Stew and accompanies a very interesting article about rhubarb by cookbook author Laura Kelley. Her cookbook is called The Silk Road Gourmet. Rhubarb season is beginning. You can find my recipe for Persian Lamb and Rhubarb Stew here on our Leyden Glen Lamb website

Going to make a Navarin of Lamb this weekend. What is a Navarin of lamb? It means lamb stew in French. Have you ever made this classic French stew? I'm going to use carrots, small potatoes, turnips and (frozen) peas and of course our lamb. Here is a recipe you can use from Dorie Greenspan. 
 
Getting lots of calls for legs of lamb for Easter and Passover. Will you be serving Leg of Lamb which is such a traditional meal for springtime holidays? Just asking.

Friday, April 04, 2014

My Sewing Life and Cloth - A New Book by Cassandra Ellis + A Giveaway

What many people don't know about my textile and art background is that it all started with sewing. I learned to embroider from my grandmother and mother when I was about ten years old. I learned to sew on my mom's sewing machine when I was 9 years old and in the fourth grade. Robin, the neighbor who lived across the street and was 4 years older than me, taught me to sew. My mom was smart (and busy w/ 4 kids) and so she asked Robin to help me learn instead of inducing the stress of mother/daughter dynamics into the sewing lessons. Very smart Mom, don't you think? and I idolized Robin so it was a win-win. 

I quickly became addicted to looking at fabric. I had been around people who sewed all my life. These were the days when you could save money by making clothes and Mom would frequently whip up a slew of clothes for all us. Gram was an awesome stitcher, quilter and needlewoman and held a sewing circle at her house every week with her German friends. I guess I was naturally inclined to become entranced with needles, thread and textiles. I discovered the art of choosing the right fabric for a project - mostly by reading the back of sewing patterns and learning what different fabrics were called by spending hours in Abe's Fabric Store in downtown Dover. I loved to match sewing thread to fabric choosing the exact right shade. I spent hours browsing through the large patterns books from Butterick, McCall's, Simplicity, and Vogue. All through my teens, I made most of my own clothing. I had an amazing high school sewing teacher named Mrs. Airola. She had learned to sew in Paris and knew all the tricks of the couture trade. Every day I looked forward to the class period when I would race in to the sewing room and get going on project. Mrs. Airola challenged us - we learned the best techniques including all kinds of seaming, bound buttonholes, welt pockets, tailoring, and many more couture techniques. I loved to sew so much that I decided to study clothing and textile design in college. 

I was so fortunate in my formative years to be blessed with these amazing teachers and parents who helped support my sewing habit. I got so into it that I started sewing for neighbors and making stuffed toys to sell. I raised the $423 by sewing to buy myself a Bernina 831 sewing machine in the 1970's which I still use today. What a great machine it has been. The number of hours it has been sewn on has got to be in the thousands and thousands.

I don't sew as much as I once did but my machine is always out and ready to go. Now I do other kinds of work with textiles but my sewing machine is often part of it - for steeking handknits and finishing edges of fabrics pre-embroidery and for mending. I make all my own linen shirts that I wear on my teaching gigs - they are basic and I re-use the pattern again and again because I have altered it to fit me. 

I never think much about my sewing - it is just something I do and something I don't blog about or talk much about. I don't know much about the current sewing world - I just do what I need to do. I find it quite remarkable that there is such an increase in the interest in sewing and I am really happy that once again, sewing is on the radar of the public. Someone told me the other day that sewing is where knitting was 10 years ago. We'll see. I do know that there are some really great sewing blogs out there and some amazing fabrics - especially for quilters. The patterns and colors available are truly stunning. They almost make me want to make a quilt! And the books that are now available! Wow. Back in my sewing day they did not exist. My only book was the Reader's Digest Guide to Sewing which I still own. Everything else I learned from following sewing patterns and from my teachers.


This is a rather long introduction for today's book review and giveaway. I wanted to share my sewing story as a preface to a new book that I just received from STC/Melanie Falick Books. It is called Cloth and is written by Cassandra Ellis. This book is truly beautiful. The photos are by the incredibly talented Catherine Gratwicke and you can find her website here. It is beautiful enough to get someone who knows nothing about sewing to learn to sew. Cassandra lives in London and describes herself as a "designer, maker, writer and thinker" on her website. The book has a very British look to it which I adore. It is what they call a "pick-up" in the publishing trade and has been Americanized by the editors at STC. You can visit Cassandra's website here.

Cloth is a what I would consider a book for beginning sewers (Note - I use that term "sewers" - I despise the new term "sewist". Seriously, who thought that one up?) It is broken into chapters including an Introduction to cloth and sewing tools and then by fibers - Cotton, Linen, Wool, Silk, and Hide (Leathers). Each chapter begins with an intro to the fiber and 5 to 8 projects follow. 


In the back of the book, there is a pocket with the sewing patterns for each of the projects. The projects are rather easy to make so if you are a long-time sewer - buy this book for the photos and fabric porn, not the projects. If you are a beginner, this book is a great introduction to sewing. I will say, it does not have many illustrations in it so if you are a beginner, you would also need to purchase a basic sewing book about seaming, or do some googling or youtubing to watch instructional videos. 

If you are looking to purchase a gift for a friend who you think should learn to sew, this book could be it. It belongs on a coffee table at a creative home. Here are some of my favorite projects from Cloth:

These linen slippers (I would call them scuffs) are quite beautiful:



Here is a project with very little sewing made out of leather. I am tempted to purchase some leather and make these.



I am a big fan of waxed cotton and fell in love with these simple zipped bags. (Have you seen Betz White's tutorial on waxed cotton? It is here and good.)


I love this simple cotton tote. Mostly I love the gorgeous leather handles - what a pretty idea.


This idea has been around for hundreds of years but isn't it beautiful? A braided cotton rug. I love that enameled stove! 


This is my favorite project from Cloth - a wool tweed zippered tote again with the gorgeous leather handles.


Because I am an experienced sewer, most of these projects are not very challenging but then sometimes, that is just what I am looking for - a quick project to whip up for a gift or to use myself. I think it is time I get out my fabric stash which has been languishing in the attic and start sewing again!

For me, the best part of Cloth is the Resource List and the large listing of Books and Magazines, Museums and Galleries around the world, Stores and Markets, and interesting Organizations and People. I really have to spend some time looking up the different websites and getting myself excited about sewing again!



Sew ....... here is what I have for one lucky winner today - a copy of the new book Cloth by Cassandra Ellis donated by STC/Melanie Falick Books. Here's how you enter....

Answer the following question in the comments......
Tell me something, anything...... about what, how, if, if not ...... you sew. I love to hear what crafts you do and talents you all have.

US Addresses only. And please AS ALWAYS leave an easy way to get a hold of you - Rav ID, Blogger ID, Blog Name, or email. No easy way to contact you and I skip to the next person in line after Julia picks a random number (some people use a Random Number Generator - I use my daughter!).

Good luck everyone - Contest closes Wednesday, April 9th at 11:59 p.m.

Contest is over - the winner is Pattie who said:
Easy sewing projects are great! I have made small quilts for grandkids and hemming my handwoven overshot towels mostly. I would love to find a pattern for a girls dress that incorporates a pocket and button hole for an insulin pump for my granddaughter. If anyone knows of a pattern, please let me know. That's what I'd like to sew next; a dress for Maddy so she won't have to wear two piece outfits all the time.
oldgoatwoman: Ravelry


Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Egging It + A Favorite Farm Recipe


Do you remember just a few years ago when Americans were afraid to eat eggs? I do. It was no longer acceptable to bring deviled eggs to potlucks. I guess America is over its fear of the egg. It seems that every food magazine has an egg on its cover. Michael Ruhlman, the cookbook author, has a new 256 page book coming out April 8 called - what else - Egg. You can read an interview with him here

 

I have had chickens in my backyard since the late 1980's when we first purchased our first home. It wasn't chic or common at that point to raise chickens. I had to mail-order them and pick them up at the post office. Minimum order was 25 chicks so they would make it  - their little bodies would heat up the box so they would all arrive alive. 

 

I still keep chickens. Although I am not attached by any means to individual chickens, I really do love keeping these birds. They get me outside everyday - even in the dark of winter. 

 

I use my chickens as a complete composting system. Any scraps I generate in the kitchen (except coffee grounds, onions, garlic and leeks) go in a bucket each day and the chickens feast on them, along with a chicken mash I purchase at our local grain and feed store. Because I cook a lot of soups and dishes with animal fat (chicken, lamb, and bacon) that are made the day before they are meant to be eaten, I let all the fat rise to the top of the pot overnight. In the morning, I pry off the fat and feed it to the chickens. The next day, I always get a bumper crop of eggs. Like today - 7 eggs! I also have no problem feeding meat scraps to my chickens. The chicken books tell you not to which I'm always curious as to their reason. It could be that meat scraps can attract rodents but seriously, there are never any meat scraps left after a minute or two.


When I do garden chores, like weeding, I bring all the weeds to the chickens. They eat the greens and pick through for the bugs. I especially revel in plucking the nasty tomato hornworms when they arrive and feeding them to the chickens. In the spring, I dig the compost out of the enclosed chicken run and use it as garden fertilizer. It is amazing stuff.

 

Right now I have 10 laying hens, 1 guinea hen, and 2 roosters. I'm ordering 8 more chicks this year for replacements. I will pick a different breed so that they look different and I can tell how old they are. I haven't decided what breed to pick yet - better get on that as the order is almost due. Chickens don't often live into old age here although I do have a couple white Silkies who have to be at least 5 years old and had a Polish chicken who lived to be 7. Something always happens around here - dogs, wildlife and if the chicken is lucky - old age.


The hens are mostly Ameracaunas which I like for their blue and olive colored eggs. They are also very dependable layers of large eggs. I also have a couple Buff Orpingtons (brown eggs) and a white Silkie (small white eggs).  Ten hens is a good number for us. I didn't go broke buying chicken grain over the winter. I don't have too many eggs that I have to worry about getting rid of them. 

My chickens lay eggs that are usually large to extra large in size (except the Silkie who lays teeny eggs). I  have an old-fashioned egg scale above my sink so I can check the sizes. 


When baking, most recipes call for extra-large eggs which weigh 2 1/4 oz. If I think I am short on the amount of eggs needed, I'll stick an empty bowl on my scale  - I love this digital scale - do a tare weight on the bowl, put in the eggs and weigh. I then adjust by adding another egg if needed.  Here is a chart which can be helpful with egg sizes. After all, baking with eggs is a science.

In the spring, when eggs are coming like crazy, I make a lot of dinners (and lunch and weekend breakfasts) that center around eggs - omelettes, frittatas, asparagus with just cooked eggs on top oozing with beautiful colored yolks, and popovers. Popovers mean spring to me. 


My relationship with popovers goes way back to seventh grade. It was the first thing we cooked in our basic learn to cook cooking class. I distinctly remember the instruction from the teacher. We had less than an hour for the class. She said we had to get in, mix the batter, pop the trays into the oven and then wait. "Do not open the oven door," she said, "or the popovers will fall." I didn't make popovers again for years - until I started raising chickens and had the annual spring glut of fresh eggs. 

The recipe I use is below. It is from Julia Child's "Baking with Julia" and it is embedded in my memory I have made it so many times. It works every time. Make sure the oven is up to temperature before you put the popovers in. The oven needs to be really hot so the popovers pop up high quickly. Do not peak or open the oven a crack! Just follow the directions.

If you really get into making popovers, purchase one of these - a "no-stick popover pan." It is an awesome tool for making perfect, hassle free popovers.


Popovers 
From Julia Child's Baking with Julia

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 extra large eggs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    (Note: If you use salted butter, cut down a bit on the salt)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Arrange the oven racks so that you have a good amount of space above the bottom rack so the popovers can raise without hitting the top rack. You need to do this BEFORE the oven gets up to temperature.

Grease the popover pan including the top rim or every other section of a 12 cavity muffin pan. The cavities that are filled should alternate so there is room for the popovers to spread out and not touch each other.

Place all ingredients into bowl and mix with a electric or handmixer until all ingredients are well mixed and foamy. Using a soup ladle, spoon equal amounts of batter into 6 cavities.

Place in oven quickly and back for 25 minutes at 425 degrees. Then turn down heat to 350 degrees and bake for 15 minutes more.


Eat hot when they are best. They can also be re-heated quickly the next day. Nice with jam too. 


We eat popovers for dinner with a bowl of soup or for tea in the late afternoon. They are a hit with everyone in our family. 


At our farmer's markets, homegrown, farm raised eggs sell for $6.50 per dozen. I've heard they go for  $14.00/dozen in NYC. What do you pay for your eggs and where do you get them?