Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Promise of Things to Come...

Love is in the air! 
Gunnar, the Gotland ram from Heidi Quist's flock, arrived for duty on Saturday, December 23rd.
If all goes well, I will be inundated with lambs around May17th, right after Shepherd's Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival. Gunnar's getting 15 ewes in his breeding pen, so I should have lots of Gotland cross lambs in 2018.  Included in his breeding group are nine Teeswater cross ewes, two Shetland ewes (River Oaks Camille and her daughter Mystery), two Shetland/BFL ewes, Roxie, my Finn/BFL ewe, and Wanda, my Wensleydale/BFL ewe. In the photo above, Gunnar is getting to know Wanda's 2015 daughter, #123. Look as those fleeces!

Sid and I bottled up another batch of Limoncello. We gave a few bottles as Christmas gifts and have a lot left to enjoy ourselves. I hadn't ever had it before I met Sid. He had a gallon jar of lemon peelings in alcohol for months when we first started going out. I didn't exactly know what it was for, but when he removed the peelings and mixed up lemony alcohol with simple syrup I was hooked. It's great for an after or before dinner drink. Aids digestion. :-)
I always like to start a batch about 3 months before I run out. I usually make a batch using two 750ml bottles of neutral spirits such as Everclear or Vodka. I peel about a dozen lemons, being careful to just get the yellow part of skin, not the white part.
After I put the peelings in a gallon jar, I just pour the spirits on top, cover and let sit until the color is gone from the peelings. I usually let it sit a few months, but I think a few weeks would work too.
On a side note, I usually squeeze the lemons and freeze the juice in an ice cube tray for easy homemade lemonade later.
When you're ready to make your limoncello, mix up batch of simple syrup. The simple syrup should be 50/50 water and sugar in an amount equal to the lemon liquor (minus the peelings). Bring the simple syrup to a boil and simmer until it looks clear. Then let it cool. When it's room temperature, just blend it with the lemon liquor, stir and bottle.
Serve over ice. You may want to dilute it with more water for a very light, refreshing drink that still packs a bit of a punch.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas, Skinfell, and Stones

It's almost Christmas and life has been busy for Sid and I. This is our third Christmas together in our house in Ogilvie. He called the place Terrapin Ridge (for all the turtles that come up from the backwaters of Ann Lake to lay their eggs every spring) and I call it River Oaks West, since I moved my entire flock and my studio here in June of 2015.
My first Christmas here, Sid informed me that his tradition is to have a living Christmas tree. I was fine with that because I hate the thought of killing a tree for a few weeks of decoration. For several years, I used my beautiful Norfolk Island Pine houseplant as a Christmas tree. Finally it got too big for our little house and I had to rehome it. Anyway, Sid and I decided to get a Norfolk Island Pine, but when we went looking for one at the usual spots, there were none to be found except for a very expensive one at the local florist. So Sid ordered one from Amazon, it was so little and cute! This year it's at least three times the size and it holds lots of decorations. The only trouble is, it leans toward the light so I have to keep turning it.

I entered my piece, "A Wee Bit Sheepish" in the Textile Center's Common Thread member's show. Just adding my signature and care tag today and it will be delivered tomorrow.  The show runs from January 8 to March 10, 2018 at the Textile Center in Minneapolis. Be sure to stop in if you get a chance, there are well over 100 fiber artists exhibiting a wide array of fiber art.

I also had three pieces in the "Begin/Continue Exhibit" of instructor's work at North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN. The pieces included this eco-printed nunofelt wall piece (only in a flat presentation), a black gulmoget Shetland felted fleece and a white raw locks collar with a wax-resist eggshell brooch.

In mid-November I wound up in the ER of our local hospital with kidney stones. I wasn't sure what it was the first time it happened. That only lasted about 30 minutes and I guessed maybe I had a kidney stone because they run in my family. But the second time it happened, the pain wouldn't stop. There was no position I could be comfortable in and I was vomiting. It was horrible, like labor pains that don't stop. We finally decided a trip to the ER was in order around 10:30 p.m. The hospital staff was very nice. They confirmed my suspicions of a kidney stone. They gave me IV painkillers and did x-rays, blood tests and urine tests then sent me home with painkillers and a basket to collect the stone if it passed before I had surgery in two days.  So two days later the urologist removed multiple stones and inserted a stent between my kidney and bladder that stayed in for  2.5 weeks (very uncomfortable, more painkillers!).  Then I had another surgery to remove the stent and break up the remaining stones with shock waves. I felt much better after that, no more painkillers.

The cause of my stones turned out to be primary hyperparathyroidism. Parathyroid hormone controls the level of calcium circulating in the blood. For some reason, usually a non-cancerous tumor, one or more of the glands doesn't shut down producing the hormone when the proper calcium level is reached. The result is that calcium is then taken from the bones and the excess calcium in the blood eventually detrimentally affects organs like the kidneys, heart, brain, and of course the bones. 
It's most commonly diagnosed in women between 50 and 60. My blood levels of calcium were higher than they should be. The ER doctor told me to follow up with my regular doctor who did more blood testing and found that my blood level of parathyroid hormone was way too high. So he referred me to a surgeon who ordered more tests and told me I would need surgery to remove the overactive parathyroid gland(s). The test results were consistent with hyperparathyroidism diagnosis, but the ultrasound and nuclear medicine scan failed to show which of the four parathyroid glands was the culprit. So the surgeon referred me to an ENT in the Twin Cities who does a lot of hyperparathyroid cases. I see him tomorrow. I am so anxious to get this taken care of! Apparently I have had this condition for a few years already. My bones are losing density as I type this. Hyperparathyroidism if left unchecked can lead to kidney stones (and kidney failure), heart attack and stroke, osteoporosis, cancer, depression, inability to concentrate, and psychosis. Yikes! Apparently it also causes weight gain, no wonder I have been steadily adding pounds the past couple years. I thought it was all Sid's fault for being such a good cook. Once the offending parathyroid gland(s) is/are removed, the condition is cured. Yay! And then calcium and vitamin D supplements are given to help restore bone loss.

On a more cheerful note, Sid has given me my Christmas present already, it's a class have been dying to take -- Skinfelling with Karen Aakre at the Milan Village Arts School next April.  You can check it out with this link.

I first heard of Skinfell from a Swedish lady who took my felted fleece class in 2016. They sounded wonderful and I have been thinking of ways to incorporate the look of skinfell in my felted pelts.  But now Sid and I are learning how to tan our own sheepskins and skinfell would be a great way to add value and make them even more beautiful. 

If all goes well with the ENT tomorrow, I am planning to put Gunnar, a Gotland ram from Heidi Quist's flock, in with my 16 ewes this weekend for late May lambs in 2018. Gotland hides are the best for skinfell and the Gotland fleeces are wonderful for felt pelts! It all seems to come together...

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Winter Solstice, Felice Navidad, Happy Hannukah, etc. to all!

Spring and Summer Classes 2024

  Well, it's April and the sheep have been sheared.  The chicks have arrived in the mail and Easter is behind us already.  Time to start...