Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Moment

I took a moment today to look up a the sky and saw the most lovely display.  Most of the day was overcast and grey, but for a moment...

So pretty.

So relaxing.

So much more to do before the weekend ends - I'd best get back to it.

Oh well...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Alpacas on the Farm

Since it's National Alpaca Farm Days this weekend - you've been waiting for it too?  I know, right? - I'm off to visit a local alpaca "hobby" farm.

The main difference between a farm and a "hobby" farm is that on a hobby farm, the animals aren't paying their way - nor are they making a little extra for the farmer to live off of.  They're fun, but not necessary to the financial success of the farm.  Or as my country friends say - they are for city folks who like to play farmer on the weekend.

All of that aside, the owners of this farm are really getting into the spirit of boutique farming.  They have a small herd of alpaca who are in excellent health, sweet demeanor and (mot importantly for my knitting habit) have the softest wool ever.

The boys were down in the lower pasture.  They're not very outgoing - even towards each other.  But oh so gorgeous!  They were shorn this past Spring, so their fleeces are still growing in, but they should be ready for winter in a month or so.

The ladies in the upper pasture were much more friendly to humans.  Curious and alert to sudden movements, but not standoffish at all.

The owner took me into the pasture so I could meet the girls up close.  I got to feed them some grain (lucky day for them - extra grain!) and they came right up to my hand and ate it.  After my experience with feeding carrots to the horses a few weeks ago, I was a little nervous about the alpaca, but they pick up the grain with their lips - no teeth involved.  All was good and they were oh so gentle.

I thought this young lady and I made a real connection.  I fed her a lot of grain, she let me pet her neck a little and give a scratch to her head.  I could feel a real kinship developing.

Then she got startled by a bird screeching and spit all over me.

I think I'll stick to knitting with the alpaca yarn and leave the raising of alpacas to the farmers.  It's the way to go.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fair Warning

Fair warning - if you walk in this area you will be photographed and your image will be used by XYZ corporation in their upcoming project.  Well, that didn't seem too fair to me.  After all, you had to be *in* the area before you could read the sign's disclaimer.  I had to take his picture.

This was the pilot show that they were filming.  A woman sitting by a lamppost outside of Bryant Park.   I hope it has a good script.

How weird that I was down by Bryant Park 2 days in a row!

But I'm off to Grand Central to wait for the train.  And apparently they're having a fashion shoot.

And of course the tourists passing through are taking pictures of the zodiac paintings on the ceiling.

Seems like everyone had their cameras out today.  Naturally I followed suit.  I wouldn't want to be an exception!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sheep in the City

Today I played hooky from work this morning and headed down to midtown.  To see some sheep.

Normally there aren't any sheep in midtown, but the Campaign for Wool was having an event, so they shipped in some sheep from way upstate, along with some yarn art, displays about wool and how using wool is a much better environmental choice than say - plastic.

The entrances were flanked by these cute sculptures of sheep in dyed fleeces.  And since the whole thing was started by Prince Charles, they had some mannikins dressed up in English military outfits.  Made from wool, of course.

This little sheep was all about promoting the English roots of the wool event.  He even brought along his umbrella.  I had to laugh!

No wool event these days is complete without a "yarn bombing".  That's where they take an object and coat it in yarn.  They took it one step further in the fountain, though.  They made water out of yarn.

Well, actually it was roving - unspun fibers.  But I think it really gave the artist the ability to show a lot of movement in the wooly water.

I just loved the colors though.  I could definitely make a nice pair of mittens out of that mossy green, or a sweater out of the grey...  But I'm here to see the sheep!

They had 2 types of sheep - the Katahdins still have their fleece on.

They were all about eating the hay that the farmer put out for them.  Well, eating the hay and staying away from all of the people that were right up against the glass fencing.

I was sitting back, enjoying my coffee and knitting, of course.

This must have come from that guy over on the right.  The color sort of matches, don't you think?

The sheep came from a farm pretty close to where our bucolic manor is.  Just down the road aways.  I was happy that they didn't have to take the train down to the city.  That would have made for one smelly ride.  Bryant Park had their own guy acting as the shepherd - he was shepherding the people from leaning on the fence.  The sheep totally behaved themselves, though.

That is, until Dog-Z came by.  Dog-Z is a chow that lives in the area.  His owner had no idea that there were sheep in Bryant Park - until Dog-Z pulled him at a full run right up to the fence.  At that point, the owner lost the leash and Dog-Z was on his own.  Fortunately for the sheep, Dog-Z really had no idea what to make of them.  They stared at each other through the plexiglas - sizing each other up.  And then I noticed...

Look closely - that Katahdin is sticking it's tongue out at the chow!  That's one tough talking country sheep.

The 2nd type of sheep were the Southdowns.  Unfortunately for them, they had recently been sheared.  Alone, bald and ostracized by the Katahdins, they hung out around the outside of the pen.  The joke is on the Katahdins.  They're bred for meat - the Southdowns are bred for wool.

Overall it was a wonderful way to spend the morning.  I felt as if my two lives were colliding!  Sheep in Bryant Park, right!?

But all good things must come to and end - so off to the subway and back to the office.  I'll see the sheep again when I get home tonight.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Midnight Muffin Madness IV

It's round 4 of Midnight Muffin Madness and this week the "Other People" will be feasting on Orange Cranberry Nut muffins.  Mmmmm - tasty!  It's too early for fresh cranberries - and all of the frozen cranberries are long gone, but thanks to the good folks at Ocean Spray, all is not lost!

The wet:  1 cup buttermilk, 2 eggs - beaten, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup whole cranberry sauce, 6 Tablespoons melted (and cooled) butter, 2 Tablespoons orange zest and 1/4 cup orange juice.  Plus for the glaze: 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice.

Wait!  Where's the orange juice?

There it is.  Nevermind...

The dry:  4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 Tablespoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 3/4 cup chopped walnuts and 3/4 cup dried cranberries.  Plus for the glaze:  1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar.

Measure out the dry ingredients and stir them together.  Make sure that the dried cranberries are individual - no clumps - so they all get coated in flour and "float" in the batter.

Measure out the wet ingredients, leave out the butter and the orange juice at first.  Stir together the wet ingredients and then add the butter - stir that up.  Then finally add the orange juice and stir that up.

Now pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and give it a quick stir.  This batter is a bit stiffer than the Midnight Muffin Madness batters I, II, and III.  The spoon will stand up in it after it's mixed together (and slowly fall over...), but that's an okay thing.  The butter milk and butter keep it nice and moist.  Oh, and the glaze.

Put 2 nice sized scoops of the batter into the muffin tin lined with cups.  They won't even out until they get into the oven, so they kind of look like little ice cream cups.  Except they're not, they're raw muffin dough cups.  Nevermind...

They go into a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes.  Then take them out and let them cool while you make the glaze.  These ones dome up nicely, I think.  And the dried cranberries take up some moisture, but they're still a bit chewy.

For the glaze, put the confectioner's sugar in a bowl and then add the 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice 1 Tablespoon at a time.  The amount of orange juice you use is going to depend on how humid it is, so put some orange juice in and give it a stir until it reaches a "ribbon-like" consistency.  You also don't have to sift the sugar before you add in the orange juice.  The lumps will work themselves out as the sugar absorbs the liquid - so no worries there.  After you've got it mixed up, just set it aside until the muffins have finished cooling.

At this point it's usually a good idea to explain to your pup why eating all of the cooling muffins on the counter would not be a good thing.  Even though she really really wants them.  Awww!  I'm going to have to make her some biscuits!

Drizzle a bit of the glaze on the muffins.  Just a bit at a time because the glaze will spill over the cups and they'll be all sticky.  And who wants to pick up a sticky muffin?

The glaze will set up and harden a bit, but it melts in your mouth when you take a bite.  Mmmmm!  The thing that works really well with these muffins is that they can be packed in layers even with the glaze because the glaze hardens.  

So now my DH can take 2 dozen little muffins off to "Other People" to eat.  

I think I need to make a bigger batch next time so there are some leftover for us!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hole in the Ground

 So I was walking along the river bank, just minding my own business, when I heard that distinctive buzzing sound that anyone who has a bee allergy is ever alert for.  But there weren't any trees or buildings, nothing for them to hang their nest on.  Where the heck were they?

I looked down.

You see it?  Right under that leaf at the top of the picture.  There's a hole - about 3-inches wide.  It's their landing platform.  2 in.  2 out.  2 in.  2 out.  They just keep going and going.

I've highlighted them for you.  That little yellow dot and the hole to the right of him.  I would have gotten closer, but this is where my DH pointed out that trying to get a close-up of a bee, when you're allergic to bees, is probably not a very good idea.

It's times like this that my DH comes in handy.  I think I'll keep him.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Best Friends

A boy and his dog.  I can't help it, but every time I see my DH and our pup walking down to the pond, I keep hearing that song from "The Courtship of Eddie's Father".  People let me tell you 'bout my best friend!

They're too cute.

Maybe because our pup walks like a Muppet.  Her little ears flop up and down with each step she takes.

They're overwhelmingly adorable.

I'm probably biased, but seriously - you see it, right?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hudson River Valley Ramble

Today my DH and I went on a ramble.  In other words, we took an historic tour of the hamlet just south of us.  We usually don't spend a lot of time just looking at the buildings and the history when we are down there - we're just watering the planters.  But today we "stopped and smelled the roses", so to speak.  Of course, it was a charity event to raise monies for the roof of this historic chapel.  That made it all the better a reason to go and see this little hamlet.

This chapel was built around the turn of the century - last century, that is.  Even though there was a church a mere 7 miles away (by horse-drawn cart), the Lady of the town decided that the children needed a place for worship closer to home, so she convinced her husband to build this cute little gem of a place.  I'm guessing that is the reason that they put 'flowers' on the roof tiles.  (Okay, I'm probably wrong about that!)

 One of the main businesses that they had back in the day was charcoal making.  This huge kiln was where they would burn hundreds of thousands of trees down and churn out the charcoal.  I can't imagine the amount of smoke and soot that must have covered the valley back then.

You can still find little pebbles of creosote scattered all over the paths and roads that are left-over from the charcoal burning.  The current owner of the property had the kilns restored several years ago, so they are safe to go into.  The beehive shapes have a keyhole opening at the top to let the smoke out and the air in.  Of course, once they cut down all of the trees in the area, this business kind of fizzled out.

Fortunately for the hamlet, they had a river running through it, so another business could start up.

And it did.  The Borden Milk Company set up shop right in downtown.  Out of all of the little tidbits of information our lecturers gave us, the most interesting thing about the Borden process was Gail Borden's insistence that the milk be untouched by human hands from its' journey from the cow to the can.  Even though he didn't have the benefit our knowledge about germs, I think somehow he must have known it.  The little tin cans of milk are also credited with helping the Union soldiers win the Civil War.  An army, it's said, marches on its' stomach - and with milk to keep them going, the Union soldiers had the advantage.

They built the plant right by the river - and right by the rail lines.  With power and distribution so close, the business succeeded.

Now the plant manufactures industrial plastics, so we couldn't go inside.  We did get to enjoy the park across the road while our lecturer described the processes that went on there back in the day.  (Lovely park - some of the planters that my DH and I water are dotted around the grounds.)

Next we were off to the mill.  Maxon Mill has a very tall grain elevator - 17 stories high.  In these parts, 17 stories is huge!  And since it's not the city, there's no elevator to the top - well, for people.  The purpose of the mill was to create a blended cattle feed - richer in the nutrients that they needed.  After all, they had to produce a lot of milk for the Borden plant across the street.

Inside the mill, you can look up the elevator to the top.  The beams used to construct this place are smaller than I would have thought.  Only a foot wide in most areas.  When you think about all of the weight of the grain bearing down on those timbers, you have to credit the architect of the place.  Well, that and the fact that this wooden building is still standing after so many years.  They now use the place for an artist in residency program - the studios are tucked into the corners and in the summer they have an art festival.  It's quiet fun...if you're prepared to climb the 17 stories to see all of the work.

Finally we were off to Luther Barn.  In a way, the tour seemed backwards.  After the charcoal business, we looked at the milk, then the feed for the cattle, so at the end we went to see the auction house where the cattle were sold.  This place was actually still in business when my DH and I moved here from the city.  They only stopped the cattle auctions a few years ago.  But they still have the tractor pulls, the pasture next to the barn is home to some horses (and a goat), and the barn is now used for more artist studios.

I liked the way that they left little reminders around Luther Barn of what its' original purpose was.  A 60's poster of horses - the tack that is used for the horses out in the pasture.

But it's the little details about the place that make it special.  The details that are built-in, not added for effect.  These hinges on one of the cattle gate, for example, have a little star cut into them.  It serves no purpose (maybe to use less metal?) but it adds a bit of charm to this barn.  Considering that it was built as an auction barn - a very utilitarian type of place - it's nice to see that whoever built it (not the guy who paid for it, but the guy who did the work), took the time to add a bit of beauty to something as simple as a hinge.