May 31, 2018

"Flax Farm" Progress...

Stitching Sheep On "Flax Farm"

I neglected my stitching over the holiday weekend in favor of gardening and canning jelly. I made up for it yesterday, threading up my needle and spending the afternoon on wool applique'.  "Flax Farm" is coming along in fine form. It was overcast and cooler outside, eventually turning to rain, so it really was a perfect day to be stitching.

Newest Favorite Tools

I thought you might like to see my two new favorite tools for wool stitching, too. I began work on this at the last Sit & Sew with Lisa Bongean, and noticed she was using a pen I hadn't seen before. I asked her about it, and she graciously demonstrated it for me.

I also sit next to my girlfriend, Kathy, when we go each month. I noticed that she had a lint remover in her kit. I got mine out when I got home, and it works perfectly for keeping stray threads (and maybe a few dog hairs) off my work.

Clover Iron Away Chalk Pen
 
This is the pen Lisa was using. It's a Clover™ White Marking Pen. It leaves a nice line for stitching on dark fabrics, and is easily removed with a hot iron. I've quit using the Frixion™ pens because they were never designed for use on fabric, and I don't know their long-term effect on my work. I also know that the ink has a tendency to reappear in cold weather. This pen won't have that problem. Once the lines are gone, they're gone.
 
I drew the lines for the flax plants that I'll stitch as soon as I finish the sheep and hillsides on this half of the mat. I'll layout the other half of the mat and stitch it when this side is done. Do you like it so far?
 
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May 30, 2018

The Latest Blessing From The Farm...

Liljegren's Hickory Hill Farm Lilac Jelly

Our weather was unseasonably warm last weekend, so I didn't spend as much time as I'd hoped in the sewing studio. I didn't want to have my sewing machine and my iron further heating up the space.

Instead, I decided to make lilac jelly (for the first time). The results were so fabulous that I spent the past two days making more.

Liljegren's Hickory Hill Farm Lilac Jelly

All of these jars were created with blossoms from the same lilac bush in our yard. (I have a sprig from that bush in front of the jars in the first photo.) We have two others in the near yard (different colors), plus a grove of really old ones in the front corner of our yard.

I decided to harvest from the same bush for my first experiment in making this lilac jelly, and there were a total of four batches created this time.

Hickory Hill Farm Lilac Jelly (L: Afternoon Blossoms R: Morning Blossoms)
 
I learned last year that most sources suggest harvesting the fruit (or in this case, blossoms) early in the day, so that's what I did for three of the batches. The resulting morning blossom jelly is on the right in the above photograph. It's a golden/honey color with a touch of peach tinge.
 
I went back into the yard for the last portion of blossoms around 2 pm yesterday, and made my final batch for the day. The result is this gorgeous, peachy/pink color shown on the left. All the batches taste the same, but I learned that I can harvest at different times of the day for differences in the final color of the jellies.
 
If the weather stays nice today (we're expecting rain), I'm going to take blossoms from the bush closest to our old apple tree. Those blooms are the palest of pink, leaning toward white. I'm interested to see if blossom color further affects the color and flavor of the jelly. 

In the meantime, I'm creating the most wonderful of treats - yet another gift of the farm - that will be enjoyed long after the blossoms with their heavenly fragrance are spent for this season. I'll savor this jelly on toast on chilly fall mornings, or spread on a delicate slice of pound cake (baked from my grandmother's recipe), and then topped with a bit of whipped cream.

I'm also looking forward to sharing a portion with our family. As I stood at the stove, I imagined our granddaughters, in years hence, standing in our kitchen, recreating these same treats from this grandmother's recipes to share with their families - right here at our family farm - and my heart is full.

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May 29, 2018

Tuesdays With Tag - Hot Dogs...

Brynwood's Taggart

 Hi, Everybody!

I don't know if you've been watchin' the weather or not, but it's kinda hot here in Wisconsin. It's not Florida hot, but it has been warm...especially for a 100 year old farmhouse with no air conditionin'.

It gets nice and cool durin' the nights, but the days have been in the 90s. It's a good thing I've got a double coat. It helps keep me cooler, but Mom brushes me almost every day so my sheddin' fur doesn't end up all over the house. 

Boo just wants Dad to throw retrieves for her, 'cuz she doesn't think about how hot she's gonna be when she's done. She's pretty insistent about it, so he throws one or two times and then she comes in the house and does a long-legged, corgi sploot to cool off!

Liljegren's Suncoast Bella

If she's not on the wood floors coolin' off, she's lyin' around in front of the fan...on the sofa, no less. Mom and Dad don't have a problem, either. They're not furry, and with all the windows open, a nice breeze blows through the house to cool them off. They don't mind it, really. They know that summer is short in Wisconsin. They want to make the most of the weather we get this time of year.

It's supposed to be this way for a couple more days, and then it's gonna cool off again. Mom said she's gonna get out our little pool today. I'm plannin' on just jumpin' in and lyin' around for ten hours or so! Who knows what Bella's got on her mind. I'm guessin' she's gonna go wild for the pool, though. Pictures next week!

I'll see you again in seven. 'til then...  
"Chase A Dream - Or A Squirrel".

May 28, 2018

Memorial Day - Resting and Reflecting...

"Tribute to Betsy" Flag Blocks

I began blocks for the "Tribute To Betsy" flag quilt by Em and Me Designs on Friday. I had hoped to have the quilt top finished by this morning, but it was hot yesterday and I didn't want to fire up my machine in my un-air conditioned farmhouse studio. (I'm not complaining. There's always a breeze here at the farm, and it keeps the house cool enough. I just didn't want to add heat upstairs.)

The twenty four blocks are now complete and squared, so I'll cut the sashing and borders first. After those are cut, I'll assess whether or not I'll turn on the machines and sew, too. I'd really like to get it assembled today, so I'm leaning toward sewing.

Kitchen Garden Finished

We completed our kitchen garden yesterday, too. We got up early to do the mulching before the sun was shining down on the garden. We did pretty well, too!

I'd love to think that I might someday look like Tasha Tudor, working barefoot in the gardens, but the reality is that the only similarity is my bare feet. Gardening is a pretty unglamorous pursuit for me (especially when my hair is at this awkward stage). I have to tie it out of my face, and well, you get the picture. I have a decision to make before my hair appointment tomorrow (go short or keep growing).

Anyway, I digress...We're really proud of our hard work, as we watched last year's planting emerge, and then, added more to compliment what's already there. We weeded, cleaned up, planted and mulched. Now, we'll just make sure it's all watered in every day, until it rains and Mother Nature takes over for us.

Farmhouse Kitchen Garden

On this end, I have new sweet basil plants, cilantro (that's decided to spread since last year!), mint, chives, silver thyme, and rosemary. Four of the five hostas re-emerged and are already doubled in size, I added a red Dianthus in the opening left by the fifth hosta, creeping phlox along the front, and lots of English lavender. I also planted three shasta daisies around the bird bath in the corner (Mom Grace's favorite flowers), and hollyhocks and delphiniums along the back wall.

We put down newsprint to hold back the weeds, and then generously covered it with the mulch. I've left room around all the plants so they can get nice and full, too.

I have plans for the grassy area to the right of this garden, too. We're going to pull the cracked slab in front of our "friends and family" entrance, and then have it repoured, along with a walkway in front of this garden to meet up with the orphaned sidewalk in front of the porch.

Once that's done, we'll add a section of garden across from this one. I'm still planning, but think there will be an ornamental tree and more herbs and flowers installed. We'll probably do all of that next spring. For now, I'm going to sit back and admire the fruits of our labor.

Soon, we'll be able to begin harvesting some of the herbs. I'll be making pesto and lavender jelly to share with family and friends. We already have fresh mint to add to our lemonades, and the fresh herbs will be a nice addition to our grilling and fresh vegetables. All our hard work will be well worth every minute.

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As you go about your day today, spending time with family and friends (or just doing something you love), please take time to remember and honor the sacrifices of those who gave their all for the freedoms we enjoy.

 Memorial Day. We will not forget...

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May 26, 2018

Our Farmhouse - Master Bedroom...

Master Bed and Quilt Wall

I have more than a few quilts I love, and I've been trying to think of ways to display them here at the farmhouse. We have two beds (three, once the attic space is finished), so that takes care of two quilts. I also use them as table covers, but I recently came up with another idea.

During the winter, I noticed how cold our exterior walls were. I'm sure that, at some point, we'll reinsulate the house, but for now, I'm going to use quilts!
 
Master Bedroom Quilt Wall
 
This picture shows two of my very first quilts. The one on the bed is a chenille four-patch, that is the snuggliest and most comfy nap quilt. I love the colors, and that alone was what tempted me to purchase the kit. After carting the kit around for a couple of years, I finally assembled and quilted it in 2004. It's definitely one of my favorites.
 
The quilt I chose for the wall is made using the original Moda "Seaside Rose" fabric line. I made it in 2005. I love the colors in this quilt, and it goes perfectly with the paint colors, not only in the master bedroom, but throughout the entire farmhouse. It's also light and airy for summer, and it's a bonus that it will help insulate the room.
 
Of course, the use of a long rod hanging from two hooks gives me the option to switch out the quilt according to seasons, or just on a whim. The bed is much too big and heavy to move around, but changing out a quilt will give the room a new look whenever I want. I'm quite happy with this one, and will likely keep it like this for a long time.
 
 
I was working in the garden again yesterday. I have one more day of work left, and then I can show you finished pictures. I'm going to put down newsprint and then cover it with mulch, as recommended in my gardening books. Weeds won't come up through the newsprint, and the plants love whatever is in the newsprint as it deteriorates. Cool, right? I did get additional plants and can't wait to show you what it looks like now!! Soon, I promise.

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May 25, 2018

"Flax Farm" Progress...

"Flax Farm" Progress

I have most of the pieces cut and prepared. The gardener is already fused, but I had to take Fray Check™ to the woven wool sheep bodies. The edges will be much nicer, and it will be easier to sew once they're all dry. The sheep heads (of course) aren't in their final position, but I'll place them after their bodies are fused to the base.

I spent time in the garden yesterday, too. I needed to weed the herb bed next to the house, and decide what else needs to be planted. three of my lavender plants died over the winter, so I'm going to get four new ones. I also lost a hosta (possibly to the rabbits?), so I'll get a new one to fill in the gap.

Once they're planted, I'm going to use a newsprint weed barrier and top with mulch. I don't garden every day. Since I fell in Chattanooga, I have an issue with water on my right knee that really should get a doctor's exam. So until then, I just have to limit my kneeling - ice it when it hurts, and garden when it doesn't.
 
I'll get the rest of the plants over the weekend, and plant them right away. Then, I may wait until early next week to do the mulching. Besides, I'd rather be stitching anyway. Well, that and spending time with family on a holiday weekend. I see a cookout in our future! How about you?

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May 24, 2018

A Little Holiday-Inspired Quilt...

"Tribute To Betsy" Quilt Pattern
 
I have a number of quilt kits that I'm sorting through. Some I will keep, and some I will make available in my shop. This is a quilt I'm going to keep and make...perhaps this weekend. This was a kit I purchase a few summers ago when Kathy and I went on one of our annual shopping days (in the Sun Prairie, WI area).
 
It's called "Tribute To Betsy" (from Em and Me Designs), and I have everything I need to complete the top, except backing, which I'll choose from my fabric room. When complete, it will measure 52" x 57", with 24 flag blocks in the design.

I can imagine this quilt placed across the back of my chair on the porch, or resting in the hammock we'll be hanging from the trees in our northern tree line. I love the simplicity of this design, and look forward to using it.

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May 23, 2018

My Current Project...

Setting Up "Flax Farm" Images
 
My Tuesday was spent tracing, cutting and fusing wools for my next project...Primitive Gatherings' "Flax Farm". This will finish as a larger table/candle mat, at 28" x 19".  

I was working on it at Primitive Gatherings' offices, where a group of ladies, me included, get together once a month. The nice thing is that, if you're working on one of Lisa Bongean's patterns, she's right there to answer any questions. Of course, she's more than generous with her knowledge no matter what the design. If you're missing a piece of fabric, or other supplies, we're right next to the warehouse...or just down the road from the shop!
 
"Flax Farm" Pattern Photo
 
I'm substituting the golden barn on this mat with a rendition of our red Compass Barn, and the extra space that results from the change will leave just the right space to insert a Corgi. I mean, how can you have a herd of sheep without a Corgi to keep them close? They are a herding breed, after all.

I'll continue to cut and fuse, so I can get to the stitching very soon. I'm thinking a cold lemonade on the front porch will be the perfect place to work on it. The forecast is to have nice weather, at least for the next few days, and the lilacs are in full bloom, so it will smell heavenly out there, too. I'll have a lot of stitching time to work on "Flax Farm" right here at Hickory Hill Farm.

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May 22, 2018

Tuesdays With Tag - My New Nickname...

Look What I Found!

 Hi, Everybody!

Boy, did I have an adventure last week. In fact, it was such a great adventure that I earned a new nickname.

Mom, Dad, Bella and I went outside so that we could watch Mom and Dad put up a new bluebird house in the yard. While they were takin' about 3 minutes to install the house, I got a wild hair. When they turned around, I was gooonnnnee! Zoom! Like that! They immediately started lookin' for me, but I had already skeedaddled to parts unknown.

Lots Of It!

I heard them ridin' around on Andy's four wheeler, and saw them ridin' around the neighborhood in Dad's truck, but I was way to busy to come when I was called. They told me they were worried that I might have been stoopid and gone a mile down the road to the highway. (As if!)

So, the story goes that about three hours later, while I was still on walkabout (or more accurately, "rollabout"), Mom headed up to the the house that belongs to the farmer who works part of our land. She wanted to see if I'd been spotted from his vantage point above the field. He hadn't, but there were other neighbors visitin' him who had their own cart, so they said they'd go look around, and call Mom if they found me.

Before Mom got home, they called and said I was up in the north field, (I already knew that!) , and they'd guide chase me back home. Mom got back to Hickory Hill and got on the cart to meet up with them, but before she could turn the key, there I was!! "Hi, guys! Miss me?" (Oh, boy, did they ever!)

The Inevitable Bath

I guess I smelled better than I'd even hoped for, because after Mom and Dad thanked our neighbors, and called the farmer to thank him again for his help, I got my fuzzy butt herded upstairs to the bathtub - and unceremoniously tossed in the water.

Of course, before Mom could get me good and soapy, I shook...all over everything. Mom had the same poo all over her, the bathroom walls, and on the window above the tub. Man, was I ever thorough!

I had to stay in the tub until she could get me completely cleaned. Once all my hard work was down the drain, she took me outside so I could properly shake, and then I was kenneled until I was dry. Then, she cleaned the bathroom...and took a shower to get clean herself. When she came back downstairs, she said she was exhausted. I guess she worried a lot about me while I was off on my little staycation.

Rats! Clean Again.



I bet you're wonderin' about my nickname? Well, all in all, I was gone about three hours. My new nickname is..."Gilligan". (Get it? A "three hour tour?") I'm not real fond of it, but as long as Mom has a treat when she calls me that, I'll come runnin'. 

As an aside, I haven't been allowed a private second to myself since. They're watchin' me like a hawk now. I guess I won't be takin' off for a while - or at least until they forget about this little incident. I might as well be back on house arrest. (Just kiddin'. I couldn't take that again!) I guess I'll just have to have doggie zoomies in my dreams for a while. You can't keep a roamin' corgi down!

I'll see you again in seven. 'til then...  
"Chase A Dream - Or A Squirrel".
 



May 21, 2018

A Beautiful Reunion Tea...

Ladies of Stitches: l-r: Jan B., me, Laura I., Beverly R. and Pat Z.

Sunday couldn't have been lovelier or more fun. I hosted a tea with some of my favorite people from the days when I owned my needlework shop, Stitches. Handsome captured a photo of us, standing in front of my original shop sign, now mounted to the side wall of our compass barn.

My youngest sister, Jan was my first shop manager. Beverly (second from the right) was my second shop manager, and dear friend, Laura was my shop manager until the shop closed in the 1990s. Pat was a good customer, who became a better friend, and she's the one who actually worked with Laura, Beverly and our schedules to find a common date for us to all get together.

Laura, Beverly, Pat, and another shop friend who passed away, managed to get together once a year for their own stitching retreat. They've stayed in touch all these years. I'm so grateful to her for really making the day possible. Of course, Jan needed to be there as my first manager, too.

When Jan heard we were having a tea, she couldn't pass up wearing her fascinator on the weekend of the Royal Wedding in England. I loved it, and thought it looked perfect on her. I wish we'd all thought to wear a hat!

Our Tea Confections

Although it isn't shown here, there was, in fact, tea served. The lilacs started opening this weekend, and I managed to find enough blossoms to decorate the table. The aroma of lilacs filled the house.

Table Fare Detail

I went outside to the compass barn this morning and picked enough fresh rhubarb to make a "crisp". I added fresh strawberries, too. Nothing like "farm to table"!!

I served lemonade, garnished with fresh mint from my herb garden, and also put out pound cake slices that acted as a perfect platform for the ladies to test the jam and jellies I put out. There were able to taste test my Sweet Basil, Lavender, and Pomegranate Jellies, as well as Concord Grape Jam.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
 
The strawberries were delicious even before there were dipped in Giardelli Milk Chocolate (with a tablespoon of coconut oil melted with the chocolate). Adding the coconut oil (or shortening) keeps the chocolate from getting crumbly and brittle. (Eat your heart out, Shari's Berries!! lol) After dipping them, I placed them on parchment over our marble board. 

Brynwood Project Totes

As a gift, I gave each of the ladies one of the project totes I'd made. Pat's daughter, Danni was going to join us, but another commitment kept her away. She was missed, but got a tote that I sent home with her mum.
 
(If you see a color/design that you'd like for yourself, just shoot a message to me. I have enough materials to make duplicates of any of them.)
 
Youngest and Oldest Sisters
 
Time really flew. I wore one of my old Stitches t-shirts, and the ladies loved it. They all arrived right around 1 pm. Bev is down in the Madison area. Jan is in the Fox Valley (the other side of the lake to the West of the farm), Laura drove down from a northern port town on Lake Michigan, Pat lives in my hometown, so they all came from various parts of the state. One of us looked at the clock, thinking it was mid-afternoon, only to find it was nearly 6 pm! Time flew as we caught up, shared stories and reminisced about the shop.
 
We wrapped up our visit, with promises to get together again in June. We'll see if we can coordinate dates that work for everyone again, and next time, we'll all bring projects to work on.
 
Before I'd let Jan leave, I had to try on her fascinator. It doesn't really coordinate with a t-shirt and jeans, but I thought it was cute. I reluctantly gave it back to her, and now I'm going to look for one for myself. You never know when you'll be invited to the Queen's for tea and sweets! Perhaps next time, we'll all plan to wear hats. Wouldn't that be fun?
 
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May 20, 2018

May 19, 2018

Just A Peek...

Project Totes Detail
 
I'm getting ready for the party on Sunday. I'm so looking forward to seeing my Stitches pals (and one sister who also worked for me), at the farm in the afternoon!
 
I'm making gifts for each of them, and this picture is a detail of two of the five project totes I created yesterday. They're all sewn in beautiful linens, using various ribbons, embellished with crocheted lace trim. Each one is as unique as the person who will receive it. I've chosen five different colors, and five different ribbons. 
 
I'll show you all of them, and ttell you all about the party on Monday. I'll definitely have pictures to share. I'll be busy, busy today with family time and party prep. 
 
I hope you have a great weekend!

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May 18, 2018

Spring Has Arrived At The Farm...

Hickory Hill Farm Old Apple Tree

We have a few beautiful, old, apple trees on our property. This branch belongs to the one closest to the farmhouse.  I've shown it to you before...with the lilies that adorn the base of it all summer long.

Our Farmhouse

The tree is located just across the drive from our house. I've placed six hummingbird feeders from the hooks that were already on the porch. (One is hanging from iron double hooks outside the kitchen windows.) We're planning to replace those windows - on the far left - with a bay window. I love our kitchen view, and would love one without the post that divides the two current windows.

We've got three tiny hummingbirds visiting so far, but I'm confident we'll have more over the summer, as they spread the good news to their little friends. There's also an oriole feeder hanging from the other hook in front of the kitchen windows. We have two pairs (gorgeous Baltimore Orioles) that visit to eat the oranges and grape jelly that are suspended from that feeder.

Indigo buntings, tree swallows, bluebirds, chickadees, sparrows, blue jays, cardinals, nuthatches, finches (goldfinches and purple) and wood tits also visit the feeders daily. We've got suet and fruit/grub blocks that interest the various species.

Old Farmhouse Sink/Planter

Remember the galvanized double sink we added to the farm last summer? It's a raised planter now. (That's why I wanted this one!) Handsome and I placed the legs on pavers to give it added stability, lined it with weed barrier fabric and then filled it with soil.

Pardon the weeds under the sink. I've been purposely keeping the dandelions for the bees, and have to pull the grass, too. I'll get to those soon (along with the weeds growing in the flower beds around the porch), but I needed to get the plants in the soil first.

Tomatoes

Last summer, I was paying $35 a half bushel for tomatoes! I was shocked, to say the least, so I decided then that we'd grow our own this year. There are six "Celebrity" variety tomato plants on the left side of the divided sink.

There's also a large tomato plant in the wooden planter next to it, which will give us a head start on fresh tomatoes this summer. I may have to thin them out as they get bigger, but hope to have another galvanized planter by then.

Yes. I do have the double galvanized sinks on the porch, but my plan is to find liners for those sinks and plant them with red geraniums. They're in pristine condition - like they were made yesterday - so I just can't bring myself to plant directly into them. They'll stay under the protection of the porch roof to keep them that way.

Cucumbers and Tomatoes

There are three cucumber plants (for pickling) yet to be planted. I'm looking for a long, drained, wooden planter to set on the ground in front of the sink for them. For now, they'll be here so I can water them with the rest of the plants.

On the right side of the planter, there are four "Roma" varieties for canning and cooking. I've also added two varieties of green peppers and one red pepper plant. (My own "salsa in a garden"!) There are also two cherry tomato varieties in pots next to the "friends and family" entrance to our home.

We also have cilantro, rosemary, basil, mint and chives growing in the herb garden next to the house. The lavender is getting big and the hostas we planted last year are already growing, too. I'll show you that area again after we finish cleaning up and installing the edging we bought yesterday.
Rhubarb
 
The rhubarb is nearly ready to pick, too! We'll harvest some, and then wait until fall to cut more. This is its second summer at the farm, and I want it nice and strong so we can split the hills and continue to have them grow along the front of the compass barn as time goes on.

I'm back in the studio now. I have guests coming on Sunday, and I'm making special gifts for them. We're having a reunion of sorts with some of the ladies who used to work for me at Stitches (my needlework shop in the late 1980s-mid 1990s). I'm so looking forward to it, and want them to leave with a reminder of our time together. I'll tell you all about that after Sunday.

Today, I'll sew while all the newly planted vegetables grow. It's (always) a good time to be at the farm.

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