Friday, September 26, 2008

It can be fall now...

Mom sent some green chile from New Mexico.

Doesn't it look delicious? When William got home we pulled out the grill and started roasting it. The smell of roasting chiles just screams out fall to me. In Albuquerque, where I grew up, every grocery store has a chile roaster out in front of the store and the smell permeates the air just as summer is finally over and the days are getting cooler.

When we moved away from Albuquerque, we had to figure out how to roast it ourselves. I think the first year, we did it over the gas burner of our stove. This works great if you only have a few chiles, but can be rather tedious if you have more than a pound or so. We usually get between 10 and 20 pounds, so we had to come up with something better. Hence the grill. A batch of charcoal will do about 5 pounds of chile.

When you roast it, you want the skins to get nicely burnt, but don't want to cook the chiles.

We then put it in foil packets. The chiles will steam in there until they are cool. At this point they are really easy to peel. Since this is our year's supply, we freeze them on sheet trays at this point and then put them into bags. Since they were on the trays first, they don't become an indistinguishable mass, but retain some individuality and you can then pull out as many as you want. Run them under hot water and the skins come right off.

I made tortillas and a salsa cruda with the last tomato in the garden, fresh garlic and the chiles. What a difference fresh ingredients make to humble bean burritos!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

William's Shirt

I finished a shirt for William on Sunday. I made it using Shirtmaking by David Coffin. This is the second shirt I have made using the resulting pattern. Somehow, I have no pictures of the first. I'll have to remedy that.

William is really happy with how these shirts fit him. When I had used a commercial pattern before getting this book, the shirts I made always resembled gunny sacks. He still has a couple of these and I was looking at one the other day. Not only have my sewing skills improved, but I had taken in the sides 2 inches!

David Coffin's method results in a well-constructed shirt. I had a few rough spots following his directions this time, but I worked my way through them. Part of the problem was I had done this before (hmm, almost a year ago) and assumed I knew what I was doing - though in reality I'd forgotten most of it.

What needs to be improved next time:

1.Make the next shirt while I still remember what I am doing. (Shouldn't be hard. I already have two others cut out.)
2. The armscye seam looks wrong to me somehow. I can't figure out what it is and I doubt most people would notice, but I need to figure out what I did and then what is supposed to be done. I suspect they are not the same thing.
3. Work on how the collar is attached to the stand. When I went to press the inner stand seam allowance in to topstitch, there was almost too much fabric to ease into the seam. There is a wonky spot right underneath the collar. After I pulled it out the third time, I decided I could live with what was left.
4. There is a spot on the shirt right below the shoulder blades, where the shirt looks like it caves in. You can see it in the photo above. I wish I knew what caused this and how to fix it!

What I like:
1. The collar shaping turned out well this time.
2. The back hangs nicely.
3. The hem is really even and has a nice curve.

Now on to shirt #2...


We planted garlic this weekend.

Most of it was what we had saved from this year's crop, but we did buy a third variety to supplement. Clockwise from the back left is Spanish Roja, German White and Chesnook. They are all hard-necked garlics. The Chesnook we bought this year at the farmer's market in Madison, WI. The heads have large cloves and have a beautiful red skin. Most importantly, it had good flavor too. We ended up planting about 75 cloves this year. This should be enough to hopefully have enough to eat next winter as well as plant (this year most of our crop went to seed.)

Here we are adding compost to the bed before planting the garlic. We then laid out a grid of holes and put one clove in each hole. We'll put straw over the bed after the garlic comes up to help keep the cold out and then it will sit there all winter.

As soon as it starts warming up next spring, it will start growing. This picture is from last April. We then harvest in July when the tops start dying back.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Blueberries will be in heaven

We went up to Hixton on Sunday to pick raspberries and get the first apples of the season at Cain's Orchard. The raspberries were picked over, but there were still some late season blueberries. We walked back to the far corner of their orchard and up on the hill were bushes that still had very decent picking for this late in the season. Not only that but the berries were delicious! Tart, lots of flavor and most were a good size, small but not tiny. We ended up picking four pails of berries- which will be enough for 18 jars of jam, 6 pies and a couple of batches of muffins. We will be eating well this winter!

I spent the afternoon making the two batches of jam mentioned above and posole and flour tortillas for dinner. William made a pie at the same time, so the kitchen was humming with activity. It was the first apple pie this year and it was a masterpiece. The crust was tender and flaky - yes, both at once. William uses the recipe from The Cook's Bible by Christopher Kimball and has a light hand - all of those years making pies for a living probably helped too. We used early season McIntosh for the filling. An excellent apple this time of year though they don't keep well and tend to get a mushy feel before there season is half over.

Perhaps this week I can get to my sewing room and work on the shirts I have got cut out for William.

This shows the two fabrics. I almost did not buy enough of the green fabric for a long sleeve shirt. That is why I am cutting it out of a single layer. I got it all pinned out this way and started cutting it and William reminded me to make the sleeves a little longer... just in time. I couldn't lengthen the sleeves, but I did make the cuffs deeper. My pile of scraps from this one is very small.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Look what came in the mail...


Coleen got the book Wool Pets by Laurie Sharp at the sheep festival.

Here are our first creations following the directions in the book. I made the brown one and Coleen made the white one.

These are fun. Though I am thinking that I might enjoy embellishing clothing with flat designs more than making little sculptures. I do like having the opportunity to do something crafty with Coleen.

Arrange the colors

Here's a color test.

I guess all the color theory I had to take in school paid off. I was able to get a perfect score.

Wool Festival

Last Saturday we went to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival. This was our second year. It is about three hours away, east of Madison, so it makes a fun little get away. On the way down we stopped at the Farmer's Market in Madison which is always overwhelming - the market surrounds the capitol building and is brimming over with beautiful displays of fruits and veggies, flowers, cheeses, honey and...well, you get the idea. Knowing that anything we bought would be sitting in the car all day, we limited ourselves to a few things we can't find locally- garlic, a whole bunch to plant in the garden; sweet potatoes, some sheep's milk cheeses and the first apples of the season.

The sheep festival had a barn with different breeds and also brand new baby lambs. This guy is four days old. What a cutie!

This is a shetland lamb. I like shetlands. They have interesting fleeces and they are small. When William dreams of owning sheep, I hope they are shetlands.

William was especially looking for some parts for his new loom and some rug warp. He found both. Coleen is hooked on needle felting, so we bought a new book and some colorful rovings for her to play with. I'll show you our first projects in my next post.

After leaving the festival, it was back to Madison to Oberich Gardens. This is a wonderful set of botanical gardens, set up in a series of rooms. Each with a different feel. Unfortunately, one of my favorites, the herb garden was being renovated but everything else was lovely.

They have a thai pavillion on one side that is surrounded by more tropical plantings.

All in all, it was a great day.