Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Knittin' Knittin' Knittin' Keep 'em needles knittin'

Honey and I spent the last week in Denver, visiting Eldest Daughter. (I would link you to her blog ... but you would be reading last year's news!! Hint. Hint)

I tell ya .... she is fantastic.  Arranged the itinerary by yarn shops.  Well, maybe not totally on purpose.... but she did awesome!

First stop ... South Broadway (So Bro ... as the locals would say!) in Denver .... Fancy Tiger Crafts.  Hip .. cool.. GREAT fleece.  Fun.  I loved it!  I would move in.  And they had a dog.... any store that has a store pet goes right to the top of the must-go list!!!!!  Personally ... I'm a cat person.  But store pets are a must in my book!!!!  Never trust a yarn store that doesn't have a pet.

Here .... I only bought roving...........

Oh .... and these uber-cute stitch markers. I really need some chicken markers.... but I settled for sheep.  But they don't have spots.  The sheep in my neighborhood have spots. I want markers with spots!

Then it was off to Boulder.  I first have to say .... I am not liberal enough for Boulder.  Yes ... we all know that I am waaaayyyy too liberal for Donahue.  And even a bit tooo liberal for Davenport.  In Boulder, I look like a member of the John Birch Society.  But I would move there in a heart beat and they could reform me.  It would be an easy job.

I fell in love with the Pearl Street Mall .......... and Gypsy Wools.  Eldest Daughter made the mistake of parking right in front of the store. 

Yarn, fleece........ spinning wheel.  The signs were all there.  Do not stop.  Keep on going.  Hand the clerk $200.  (Seriously ... two minutes in the store. Any longer it would have been just that!  Fortunately, I hadn't found a bank yet!)

But I did find 500 yards of hand-dyed mohair.  Oohhhh, Baby!!!! I'm sure it will go into scarves and slippers.  I'm loving the colors.

We had already made a stop at Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins where I bought more yarn.  Actually, quite a bit of it has been knitted up already. But I did buy a couple of skeins of Manos.  I love knitting with this yarn.  I actually I have no idea what I will do with this.

But isn't that what stash is for????  And already, I am certain that I didn't buy enough.

So what have I been doing with all this stuff????

First of all ........ new slippers.  Wool ... mohair.  Warm. Cozy. And with this wind today ....I may be knitting the Manos into a pair for me!

Then a couple of more scarves.  The drape-y one .... a smoke ring made of  Tussah Silk .. hand-dyed and hand-spun by the uber-talented wizard of the dye bath ... Maggie from PrairieLand Herbs.

And I have been using up every scrap possible...like in the scrappy scarf above. It looks like rainbow sherbet. Wool, silk, angora, mohair, and alpaca. 

Yea ... I'll admit it.  I am a yarn snob.

But my snobby yarn addiction makes these super soft and wonderful.  What are those little rounds of fuzz? Coffee cozies.  Lots of coffee cozies. 

I'd hate for your Starbucks to get cold.

And speaking of colds, tomorrow I will tell you how I protected myself from seasonal viruses forever ...... by surviving the mint room!  Ahhhh........ the smell of peppermint.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fuzzy-Wuzzy was .........................

 two furry kittens!

OK ... Little-Face-Fluffy-Tail is truly a blond cat. Seriously, doesn't she know better than to have kittens in the fall?  But being a little slutty, she found herself in a motherly-way.  She hid it very well. But on a wet cold evening in October, she delivered in a bed of dead impatiens.

I really think she didn't know what to do....... she followed me around, meowing loudly. I ignored her.  I'm good at that, she would attest.  But when I heard a cry of a cold wet kitten ...... I knew something had happened.

I found two small but seemingly, healthy kittens.  And a first-time mother that didn't have a clue!!!

I was certain that these little kittens didn't have a chance......

But Little-Face-Fluffy-Tail (my friend Mona says that's her Indian name! Mona can say that ... she has lots of Native American blood in her!!! And her family met my family when they got off the Mayflower.  They are a friendly bunch!!!) has proven to be a good mama.

So now ........ I have a dilemma.  The kids need names.  We already have Izzy, Right (Left lives up the road) 3 Georges (George, Little George and Really Fast Fat George), Little-Face-Fluffy-Tail ......... and two more that don't have names ... except black cat with ring around its tail and the gray fluffy thing.  Oh ... and there is Yoda Jo, Patches Ann and Phrapher.

Can you help me out??  They need names.  Little yellow kitten and little tortoise shell kitten.  Be brilliant.  Don't be ordinary.  And comment away. 

I'll let you know what I decide.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Summer Kitchen update!

Summer Kitchen as seen yesterday!

 Do you guys even know how much I love you????

Pincushions .. made by Julie Wall.  I keep thinking the blue one should be MINE!

Even though ... there isn't insulation between the studs, drywall on the walls or bead board on the ceiling, you have been supporting us.  And I thank you so very much.

Hand-felted soaps by Julie Wall.... just scrub that winter skin right off with soft local wool!

And although, there may only be one or two pairs of slippers, a half a dozen scarves and maybe you have to wait to get a full dozen eggs.......... you come and you visit and you make me happy.

Cupcake tree ornaments from recycled sweaters ... Too Sweet!!

And the Summer Kitchen is still missing windows and the current lighting includes 3 bare bulbs, you are proving to me ... that you want locally produced products. 

Adorable, isn't it???  After posting this picture on Face Book .... its sold!

I don't know how to tell you how very much I love all of you........... my crafty friends and my loyal wonderful customers.   Scratch that! You aren't merely customers .... you have become my family.

Hand-knit scarves out of luxury yarns and hand-spun.

So .... thank you.  The Summer Kitchen will be open on Friday 11/19 from 9-3.  We will be closed the Friday after Thanksgiving (Black Friday!)

BUT we will be open on Saturday 11/27 ... Small Business Saturday ... to celebrate the wonderful small businesses that really do make a difference in how we live! 

And to help out with your Christmas shopping ........Mark your calendar!  We are hosting a bazaar on Saturday 12/11.  Yea ... stay out of the mall and come to the farm for your last minute gifts.  OK ..... I will entice you just a bit more........... nut rolls.  Salted nut rolls. 

Need I say more???????

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thank you for everything!!

Today .... we had the Summer Kitchen open to benefit the charity ..... Water for Christmas 

I love this charity .... 100% of all donations go directly to the building of wells and getting clean, fresh, healthy water to Africa. So if the charity can make sure every dime goes to building a well ............ well, so can Miss Eff.

Today..... you came out and bought and supported a mission that is important to me.  And together .... you helped me raise $280.

You gave clean safe water to 14 people ............. for 20 years!!! AWESOME!!!!!

So if you haven't heard it yet today ............. Thank you and I love you.  You are amazing.

Now ... I need to get back to knitting.  The Summer Kitchen is looking a little bare!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A teabag does its best work in hot water.

 I have been very very blessed in my lifetime.  I have beautiful daughters; a wonderful, fantastic, creative and funny husband; supportive, imaginative friends; a good roof over my head ................... and a newish well.  (New enough that I am still paying for it!)

So just a reminder .... the Summer Kitchen will be open on Friday 11/12 from 9-5 for a unique shopping experience.  EVERY dime that is spent in the Summer Kitchen will go to Water 4 Christmas and the
Wine to Water event on Saturday 11/13.

For you that don't know ... the Summer Kitchen keeps on its road to progress but its not done yet. (But it does have an awesome lightening rod on top of its swoooopy roof!) 

Hand knit scarves .. alpaca, silk, mohair, hand-spun wool

 And since I insist on Always Local, All the Time ........ additions come slow.  But here is a short preview of what will be in the Summer Kitchen on Friday!

Cotton bath mitts
Cocoa mixes .... including peanut butter fudge and turtle cocoa mix.  Jams and jellies .... nice batch of Sunshine Jam ... it just makes me happy in the morning!

Hand-spun yarn ... and I might be working on some more!
There will be a granola tasting .... date-pecan so you can try that before you buy.

Warm toasty slippers made from hand-spun yarn and blended with mohair.  Soft and stretching!

Our newest offerings include postcards from the farm .... Remember Walter??????

It is always tea time at Miss Effie's.

 There will be home-baked bread .... boule' and Asiago cheese bread. And four dozen very fresh eggs!! And tea.

My thrift store tea service!! Don't you just love it????

 Come join me for tea and cookies. And write a check to Water for Christmas.

Because we are blessed to have a good well.

Honey wants to know..................

Exactly whose turn was it to watch me?????

Its been a rough week .......... four local food/farming meetings and/or events.  Throw in a presentation and three work shifts ... including unloading a semi.... and I am beat!  Then blend in bread baking, laundry, painting, knitting 4 scarves and 2 pairs of slippers... yea, it was time to escape life. 

Well... at least, I needed to escape Iowa!!

So for EIGHT glorious hours, I didn't get a single phone call (I do not and will not own a cell phone) No emails telling me how to farm.  Or what the definition of local is. No nagging thoughts about doing dishes and ironing shirts. Eight hours of absolute splendor!!

Note .... I didn't say silence.  Every so often .... I really like being alone with my thoughts.  But not yesterday! I hopped in the car .... popped Leonard Cohen into the CD player ........ and blasted it!!! 

You know .... you are driving along and you hear a song that you really really really like........ so you play it again.  And in my case .... again and again and again.  I am certain that people look and see this little old gray-haired woman (who can barely see over the steering wheel!!) and think .......... Oh, the poor dear is senile.  She keeps playing that song over again.  And she must be very deaf!

Yea ..... I'm just rockin' out!

So I rocked my way to Argyle,Wisconsin to see Kristie, Kathy and Carrie at the Argyle Fiber Mill.

I had called last week .... I sold some hand-spun yarn, had a yarn shop want to buy some of my hand-spun .. and I realized my fiber stash was decreasing rapidly and winter is almost here.  For spinners and knitters.... its kind of like stocking up the pantry and splitting wood for the wood stove.  (Oh yea... we do that too........) 

Seriously ... I wouldn't dream of going into winter without 150 quarts of tomatoes.  How could I possibly think about going into winter without several pounds of fleece????

So I call the Argyle Fiber Mill...........Hi, I'm from Davenport and I need fleece.  And I am looking for colors .. not too much natural. 

Is this Miss Effie??????

Yea .... true story. 

Icelandic Roving from Argyle Fiber Mill

 So Kristie, after explaining they read this blog and they only process natural alpaca and Icelandic for sale in their store........ offered to take me to Rainbow Fleece Farm.  We didn't go until I bought some natural Icelandic roving and a gray Lopi yarn.


 No website.  On a winding back road..... I'll never find it again!!!! And I have a good sense of direction!!!

Rainbow Fleece Farm

But fabulous Blue Faced Leicester and Merino blend roving and yarn!

I'm thinking about plying a single of the red and the green multi-colored together.  There is a lot of red in it. At this angle it looks more brown. I'm not sure........ all I can do it is try it.  And frog it if I don't like it!!!!

So I think -- I am fairly set for a snowy day. Or month. Hopefully.  I love being stuck in the house with the wheel and the fiber!

Oh yea.... this has got to get done first.  Two pounds of blended brown and cream alpaca.  Soft .. Yummy .. but slow!

After a stop to pick up some New Glarus beer and a major cheese expedition, (yea... I got some Pleasant Ridge Reserve ... one of my all-time favorite cheeses!) ... I had refreshed my soul enough to come home.

To a computer full of emails... a stack of dirty dishes .......a pile of laundry.... and bread that needed to be baked.

I love my life!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Oh, Lord..... Won't you buy me.............

a Mercedes-Benz.  

I know Janice Joplin asked for one. But Lord, I just want to be safe and healthy. And if that's not possible, I ask for your grace and forgiveness.

Really, can we ask for any more than that???

Well... I won't.  I have been blessed with an amazing life.  And so it right for me to open my heart ... like I expect others to do. So here is the plan......

There is a little event here in the QCA called Wine to Water. It's elegant, classy, delicious and fun.   These women raised over $100,000 last year to drill wells in Liberia.  Five-six women and an idea.  And success. 

They are amazing.

I feel strongly about business being involved in the community.  And not just lip-service or volunteering once in a while.  But actual, open up the billfold and let the money and time and energy fly!!!! 

And I know we all have bills to pay.  And we all have groceries to buy. But if you serve the Lord in the way that he asks, he will provide.  May not be a Mercedes-Benz..... but I trust in his love and his promise.  Besides, I can only watch one television at a time!

So Miss Eff is doing this.  The Summer Kitchen will be open extended hours on Friday.  9 to 5.  ALL proceeds..... ALL proceeds will go to Water for Christmas.  Just come out... buy what you want and write the check to Water for Christmas. 

Jams, cocoa mix, granola, scarves, slippers and dishcloths..... anything that I have for sale. EVERYTHING! 100% of the sale will go to Water for Christmas and Charity Water.

If you don't want to make the drive to rural Scott county or you live too far .... go to this link and give $20 to provide fresh clean water to one person for 20 years.

Miss Eff thanks you .... from the bottom of her heart.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Will it go round in Circles??

So ... I have lived well over half my life.  Even if I live longer than my grandparents and most of my great-grandparents, I only have another 40 some years. But in that first half ..... I have seen a lot of things go round in circles.

In style.  Hot. Groovy. Hip. Cool.  New. Fresh. Contemporary.

then suddenly ......................

Yesterday. Old-fashioned. Out-dated. Boring. Whatever. Dinosaur.

When I was growing up, we all sewed, knitted, cooked.  We just learned how to do that kind of stuff. Heck!  I'd come home from school and decide that I had nothing to wear so I rummage through the stash of fabric and sew something new that night.  I could bake.  I could knit.  I could embroider. 

And I did.  And so did my friends.  And we were proud of our accomplishments. Those talents were just part of our every day life ... like breathing.

And the 80's came.  Dinners "out" were the norm.  You dressed for success.  And we all knew .... success wasn't found in homemade woolen suits or hand-knitted socks. It was the beginning of branding our butts with Gloria Vanderbilt and Calvin Klein.  Our homes were decorated with only the finest..... no thrift store buys then!  A homemade touch???  Not so much.

And I found Prozac.  I needed it.  My accomplishments were crushed by the fashion of life.

A score passes (wow.... I always wanted to say that!  A score!!!) and suddenly, the old gal that sews and knits and spins and cans is not odd.  But in.

And I like it and I am happy.  And I celebrate in the moment. 

But I know ..... this too will pass.

Like the mini skirt and the go-go boot..... they will come and they will go.  Like short or long hair, straight hair or curls ............... they will come and they will go. 

Because if I know nothing else ... we Americans are fickle.  And impatient. If you don't believe me, ask President Obama.  Yea.  You understand.

And soon.... the old gal that sews and spins and knits and cans ... will be odd, not in.

The lifestyle that I am growing is one that demands patience and time.  It is not a lifestyle of convenience and instant rewards.  And sooner than I want, it will be .........

Yesterday. Old-fashioned. Out-dated. Boring. Whatever. Dinosaur.

I just hope I will be able to find the Prozac.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I'm likin' the term..................

ECOpreneurs.....farmers and small business owners that embrace lean and green living.

I heard Lisa Kivirist speak at an event sponsored by the Women, Food and Agriculture Network.  Lisa has been a virtual/print mentor of mine since I started Miss Eff's.

When I started this business 10 years ago ... I thought there were few women-owned farms to give me hope and inspiration.  Well, I was wrong .... there were lots of women, working in large garden plots and farm fields. Unfortunately, we didn't know a lot about each other. Blogging was almost non-existent.  And I wouldn't have been reading them anyway!

Lisa, on the other hand, was "out there".  She was building a name for herself as she was building  a bed and breakfast on her farm. A practical and inspirational writer, she had many articles published in Mother Earth News and Hobby Farmer. So to hear her speak about women in agriculture was almost a dream come true.

One point made an enormous impact.   It was "Harvest low hanging fruit".  Big dreams are great.  I love big dreams.  But big dreams cost money.  And sometimes, there isn't money to fulfill those dreams .... maybe no money to buy that ladder!  So we look at ourselves and set aside our dreams. We listen to the line ... Go big or go home!  Sometimes, success comes by  harvesting low hanging fruit. 

Now that the growing season is over, I am concentrating on filling the Summer Kitchen ... for now and the summer months. What can I create that is useful, practical and fits the vision of the Summer Kitchen?  So I'm knitting dishcloths. No ... its not a sexy product.  No ... its not a big ticket item.  They are $5 dishcloths. 

The profit percentage is decent.  The product is well done. (Hey ... if I have to, I'll drag out my blue ribbons for knitting!) But I can do them ... quick, easy and cute. Low hanging fruit!

One of the best examples of using low hanging fruit is from my friend Jill.  OK -- Jill is the perfect example of using what you have and this post should be in every farmer's office ..... thinking outside the CSA box!

Many times we see expansion as going bigger and better.  I'm learning to see expansion ... as not an upward movement ... but a lateral movement.  What do I do already that I can develop?  What little niche can I fill with what I currently grow, raise or do?

When I first started ... I grew herbs for cutting.  I planted 360 basil plants. I had the nicest basil crop ever. 
And I sold enough basil to pay for one plant.


The next year, I cut back on herbs ......... and still didn't make any money.

But the problem wasn't with the plants ... it was with me.  I thought ... Customers will pick their own herbs, like they do their flowers.  Not so much. 

It was a lack of creative thinking on my part. Now, we are working on herb bouquets, herb teas, lemonades and jellies.  Value-added agriculture that has a much higher profit margin than herbs stuffed into a bucket.  

Low hanging fruit.

I'm kind of short.  I like ideas that I can reach.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Boney Fingers!

Work your fingers to the bone and what do you get ........Boney Fingers!

(I have no idea where that came from!)

I told you that I would sneak peak the Summer Kitchen stash during the week so here we go.

A pair of warm toasty slippers like Grandma used to knit! Hand-spun Shetland wool worked with a variegated baby kid mohair.  These are sized for women and are hand-wash only.

Next is hand-spun wool..... the fiber from both is from High Prairie Fibers.  This is a blend of orange, red, gold and green ... there is approximately 500 yards of this.

And this mix of green, brown, cream and pink is a blend of 85% wool and 15% mohair.  There is about 96 yards.  It is so soft and dreamy.  It from a color palette that Abi calls Patience. 

Please someone, buy this fast.  Please.  Otherwise, I am going to have to knit it up ASAP!

Thursday or so ... I will show you some more new stuff.  Until then ...... I'll be working those fingers!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bedroom Re-do .... Day Two.


I have made a little progress on the bedroom decorating project.

First on my agenda was re-arranging  and tossing out.  The hanging lamp has a new home at ReStore in Davenport.  I'm sure they are delighted with the 1970's colonial look.

The Norman Rockwell poster is residing at Goodwill.

And the trunk at the end of the bed is now a display piece for pillows and throws in the Summer Kitchen.  Wait.  There are no pillows and throws in the Summer Kitchen.  Little steps, Miss Eff.  Little steps.

This is my new nightstand.  It was the end table in my living room.


The bigger news is the change in the bedspread/coverlet.  I like this coverlet.  But its burgundy.  And I want a brighter room .... not so subdued.  (Yea .... kind of like some one you know!  Not subdued at all!)

The coverlet is just a few years old.  100% cotton.  So Rit dye to the rescue.   Ahhh .... lookie there! Two different shades of red.

Yea.  This was one of those if-at-first-you-don't-succeed moments. Yep.  The third time was truly a charm.

I started the dye process by grabbing the coverlet and shams and washing them.  Then, I stripped the color out.  Then I dyed them in hot water for a double wash cycle..  Then I washed them again in hot water for a double wash cycle.  Then I dried them.  Took aaaaaalllllllll afternoon.

Happy with the results, I went to put everything back on the bed.

And saw the second pillow sham on the floor!!!

So back to the fabric store to get more dye.  And through the process again ... except the color stripping.  I did both pillow shams to make sure they were really close to the same color.

And I got this ..............again.

Another trip to the fabric store.... another bottle of dye and yes, I bought another box of color remover.

Victory in the bedroom, at last!!  (Honey ... be quiet!)

The floral fabric that is pictured with be the new draperies.  The plaid will be a duvet cover.

So a little progress was made.  This week, its the closet re-do and the painting of this nightstand.  More to come!