25 December 2007

More Bread

For Christmas we spent the entire day baking the bread we started last night. We made some changes to the Cooks Illustrated No-Knead Bread recipe. We started with the basic recipe
15 ounces of flour (weighed) or 3 cups
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lager or pilsner beer
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Mix the dry ingredients. Then stir in the wet ones and cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 8 hours or longer. Kneed briefly and place dough on a parchment paper to let it rise for 2 hours. Slash the top before baking. Preheat a covered dutch oven and bake bread covered for 30 minutes then uncovered for 20-30 minutes more. The recipe calls for a 500 degree preheat and a 425 degree bake.

To that basic recipe we made the following changes to every batch. In all cases 5 ounces or 1 cup of the regular flour was replaced by whole wheat flour. After our last attempts I did some on-line checking and talked to skilled local bread bakers. Based on those discussions we had several things to try including more water to the dough initially, lower start and baking temperatures and eliminate the honey to prevent the crust from getting too dark. To all the sets we ended up adding 3 extra tablespoons plus a teaspoon of water. It took that much for the dough to incorporate all the flour. We bought new yeast in case our old yeast was too old to work.

Version 1 used regular all purpose flour for the white flour portion and new yeast. We preheated the oven and dutch oven to 425 degree. When we put the bread in we reduced the heat to 375 degrees and baked it covered for 30 minutes then uncovered for 25 minutes.

Version 2 used bread flour for the white flour portion and new yeast but the baking times and temperatures were the same.

Version 3 used bread flour and old yeast and the same baking temperatures and times.

The final result is that the old yeast is a problem. Bread made with the old yeast did not rise as well and was not as good. A surprising result was that the bread made with the regular flour rose better and was our winner in terms of taste and texture. I had expected the bread flour to perform better than it did. Making 3 loaves at a time used up one can of Budweiser so there was no beer wasted.

Next set of tests we want to try will use the same preheat and baking temperatures. We'll stick with regular flour for the white flour portion and it's clear we don't need any honey. The additional liquid seemed necessary and is easy to do. I want to reduce the salt used and I want to try replacing more of the water with beer. We also want to try other pilsner yeast beers. First up, trying Corona as a lager with a bit more flavor.

White Christmas

Christmas day and we got a white Christmas for sure. The little rams are enjoying the snow. We also got a visit from the Christmas turkey's. They are a lot bigger than when we saw them last.
Winnie and Becky are doing well guarding the perimeter of the pens.

21 December 2007

Dried In

The crew worked really hard to get the new shop in the dry before the Christmas break. Not only is all the plywood done but the underlayment is in place too. All that's left is the metal roof but that can wait as long as 6 months if it has to. The underlayment is rated for full weather for at least 6 months.

The side carport is also well started. Everyone is off from now until after the New Year on break but at least if it snows a lot we don't have to worry.

20 December 2007

The Solstice Invasion!

OK So it's not quite the solstice, but the celebration will last at least until then.

All 11 new rams, 3 adults and 8 ram lambs are now legally landed citizens of Canada. They cleared the border at 6:00 pm and are now on their way to temporary quarters before being disbursed to all the Canadian flocks participating in this importation.

I did some more checking and by cross referencing all the sheep that had been sold to Canada with all the sheep I know about whose pedigrees I have and am confident of it looks like the total Canadian population of purebred Black Welsh Mountain sheep was founded on 8 animals, 2 separate importations of 3 ewes and a ram, one in about 1985 and one in 1998 or 1999 both from Tom Wyman's Wye Heights flock.

21 December edit Correction to the founding animals for the Canadian flocks: There was one importation of 5 ewes and at least one and perhaps two rams in 1987. And then in 1999 3 ewes and 2 rams were sent to Canada. Those are the only documented importations to Canada until this one.

This group of new rams will make a huge difference to the long term viability of the breed in Canada.

A special thanks to everyone involved, Becky Bemus, Lois Heslop, Dr. Cotten, Dr. Kelley, Dr. Sponenberg, Ron Keener and all the others who helped or will be participating in the cooperative breeding program outlined for these rams.

I'm celebrating with a shot of that lovely Welsh single malt, Penderyn.

Sheep at the Border

I have it secondhand that the sheep have arrived at the border. Lois is not yet across, there are very long lines both directions. Not yet sure whether she will load up and try to come back tonight or stay overnight in MT with the sheep.

Sheep on the Road Again

As of 7:00 am Thursday morning the sheep were now in Butte, MT heading to the border. Should arrive by 1:00 pm or so. Lois is meeting them at Sweetgrass and will hopefully get across the border before the end of the day.

19 December 2007

Sheep Stuck

As of this morning the Canadian bound sheep are stuck in Bountiful, Utah with the hauler who has a blown transmission. Lois may be driving down to Utah to pick them up. We won't know more until we hear whether the rebuilt transmission that was ordered arrives and gets installed. Looks like it was all part of the same mechanical problem he had in Delta, it's just taking a long time to die in stages. The Washington bound sheep are obviously also stuck but at least they don't have a deadline to cross a border.

18 December 2007

Sheep Shipped!!

Some of you know that I've been working for several years to document and register all the Canadian purebred Black Welsh Mountain Sheep. Once I really started to document the sheep I realized how critical they were genetically with a very precarious situation in terms of numbers of sheep and bloodlines. I started working then, about 4 years ago, to try to get the border open and ship sheep or semen to them.

We went through the comments on the border regulations proposed by the USDA, the mad cow problems, the political tit for that that stopped us cold for months at a time, inability to ship semen because I was not scrapie certified, and more. The border finally opened in July 2007 and I started asking in August what rams I could send since the restrictions on shipping ewes were so ridiculous that there was no way I or any other breeder could do it.

I never did get an answer to my request to ship a UK sired ram to Canada even after asking my federal representative for help
but eventually we did sort out 11 US sired rams that could be shipped, 8 ram lambs and 3 adults.

The paperwork was incredible, things were touch and go until 14th December when we finally had the final US paperwork in hand. This after faxing a copy for approval, getting verbal approval, sending the real certificate, having it rejected, fedexing a replacement, having to send additional certifications and so on. And that was just the US side, the Canadian side also required significant work. Becky Bemus is the Canadian member who did all the paperwork on her end. By this time the hauler was already committed to the trip. On our end we had to tattoo all the boys as well as double tag.

Sunday we had to go to rescue the hauler who had a significant mechanical problem about 40 miles from us. We helped arrange for a tow truck for his vehicle and hauled the trailer, full of other livestock he was hauling to the mechanics to wait until Monday morning. It took until today for him to get parts, they had to be overnighted from Denver, there were none in western Colorado. We finally loaded the last of the sheep and he left the driveway at 5:15 pm.

While the trip is not yet over, the sheep are on their way to Sweetgrass MT where they will be transferred to another trailer belonging to Canadian member Lois Heslop for the trip across the border. We are under a deadline, the sheep have to clear US customs, US vet inspection, Canadian Customs, Canadian vet inspection and all be done by the end of Friday or the border shuts down until 28 December. We won't even go into the fact that Lois has to have a passport or she won't be allowed back across the border and tag them all with Canadian tags before they travel too far into Canada.

The last documented export of sheep was from Tom Wyman's flock in 1998 or 1999.

Dr. Sponenberg from ALBC is working with the Canadian breeders who are getting rams from this importation to develop breeding programs that will work to help solve their inbreeding problems and effectively use these new rams without swamping critical Canadian bloodlines.

I hope to work with Becky and Lois and all the others involved to write a detailed article for the club newsletter in case anyone else wishes to export sheep. But for now the sheep are on the way and now out of my hands.

In related efforts 10 ewes are traveling in the same trailer to flocks in Washington providing them with new blood from Wye Heights Ysgawn, the ram I got from Tom Wyman.

And to top it all off, both Ken and I are sick with the Christmas cold that is going around Paonia so we are not feeling great after lifting nearly a ton of sheep shoulder high into the top deck of a trailer.

But the sheep are shipped!!!!

Construction continues

Work continues on the new shop building. Bill and his crew are scrambling to try to finish getting the roof on and it dry before our next storm. They only need about 3 days in a row of clear dry weather but it doesn't look like we will get it. Today should be nice so we'll see how much they can get done. It would sure be nice if the snow would hold off until the end of the week.

Happy Chickens

With the combination of construction and the snow all the chickens are being kept in their house for the winter. To keep them happy we take lots of treats, scraps of food, stale bread, vegetable pieces like carrot ends or bits of lettuce and stuff. Here the chickens are happily scratching for their latest goody.

We have several breeds of laying hens, Rose Comb Brown Leghorns, Gold Penciled Hamburgs, Cream Brabanters and Gold Campines. In spite of the cold they are all laying very well. Normally they would be out scratching around but it doesn't make sense to have them loose in winter. We don't crowd them in a small house so they do fine when locked up.

The geese are also often locked in their winter quarters. They will tolerate more cold than the chickens and so on sunny days they get to go outside. We have a fenced pen for them so they can't get into trouble helping the construction crew.

13 December 2007

More Siding

Both dormers got framed and a lot more siding got installed. It's supposed to snow more tonight but Bill and his crew are making good progress. If the weather will just hold off until we get a roof on....

Bread Second and Third Try

Here's my second and third attempts at bread. The loaf on the left is the whole wheat variation. The one on the right is the regular one but for both loaves I weighed the flour rather than using a measuring cup.

For the regular one I increased the second part of the baking without the cover to 35 minutes before I gave up and the internal temperature only got to 202 degrees. For the whole wheat version I used a probe in the bread while it was baking so I didn't have to open the oven at all and I went for 45 minutes and got the internal temperature to 203 but no further.

Both versions tasted ok but neither got up to the proper temperature and the regular one was still clearly underdone. The whole wheat one was badly burnt as you can see. We ate the crust of what we had but I suspect that the chickens will get some treats tomorrow, it was pretty bad.

No clue how to adapt the recipe. I suspect the altitude here is the cause of the problem but I am at a loss as to what to do to fix it, suggestions welcomed.

11 December 2007

Working at the Winery

Yesterday Ken and I went up to Terror Creek Winery to help bottle wine. With the 4 of us we can bottle nearly 40 cases in a couple of hours if everything is set up when we get started. Here's Ken holding up the hose at the very end as we try to get the last drop of wine out and into the bottles.

Terror Creek makes wonderful wine, we helped bottle Chalet, a red table wine yesterday. Joan make the most wonderful Pinot Noir too. and her whites are also great. They are made in the Swiss style and the Chardonnay is not oaked. The Gewurtzaminer is a dry one and very good with all sorts of food. If you are in the area or see it in the store try Terror Creek wines for a special treat. You just might get one we helped bottle.

Winter Storm

Monday the construction crew got the joists up on the roof but today they had to quit due to the snow. Ken's been up on top clearing snow off to try to keep it safe for when they can get back to work on it.

Our fencing crew couldn't make it up the hill so the gates didn't get hung yet. Most of the rest of the fence is done enough to survive winter, a good thing, over 100 elk came down yesterday and were in the property just north of us looking at the orchard through the new fence. Sheep love the snow, nice warm wool coats mean they don't feel the cold and as you can see they are well insulated. They do tend to eat more during cold weather. We feed out about 650 pounds of hay or 10 bales to the sheep each day. It's actually not an even 650 pounds every day, instead we fill feeders when they are empty and some days we put out a lot more than 10 bales and some days we don't have to put out any. Today we fed 13 bales of hay to sheep and 4 to horses. Tomorrow we'll only need to fill one feeder where the for sale sheep and sold sheep are.

When it snows we don't have to worry about water for the sheep. They can get all the water thy need from fresh clean fluffy snow. That saves us a lot of time. Sheep love their snow cones too.

09 December 2007

Hervey and Friends

Hervey the ram and 2 of his girlfriends. When we first saw them the one in the white coat was sleeping on his shoulder. As I tried to get the camera out the other ewe came up and started bothering them. Sure hope that means they are in heat and we'll have little baby Hervey's next spring. Hervey is scheduled to leave for Canada in a week and a half so this will be my only chance to use him for breeding on our flock.


Usually when I've tried to make bread here in Colorado I get hockey pucks, bricks or other building materials. Bread fails to rise, or rises then falls flat. In any case it's dense beyond belief, and while tasty a loaf could feed an army for a week.

This bread actually came out nearly perfect! I used the no-knead recipe in the latest issue of Cooks Illustrated Magazine. The only problem I had was that I don't have an instant read thermometer and the recipe says to get the inside of the bread to 210 degrees. We couldn't wait and took it out at 200 and yes, the inside was not quite done. But it was still the best I've ever made.

One secret is to use a light lager or pilsner beer. I had to explain to the liquor store lady why I was buying Budweiser! We usually drink good beer, like Arrogant Bastard Ale or Ruination IPA from Stone Brewing. But the recipe calls for a bottom fermented beer using lager yeast so a pilsner was the choice. Best and as far as I am concerned the only good use for a can of Bud. The recipe only uses 1/4 cup so I dumped the rest. Probably should have given it to the chickens, they will eat anything.

Next time I want to try the whole wheat and rye bread versions. And then branch out into better beer but still sticking with a lager yeast.

Better Shop View

Here's a better picture showing the shop progress. This was taken Friday, 7 December. It was too wet and miserable to work on Friday. Today we had snow but it's melting fast and the weather looks pretty good to get the roof on during the next 2 weeks. Once the roof is on we won't have too many more weather issues and work can continue all winter if need be.

08 December 2007

Warped Again

Finished my small sampler of singles yarn. It's probably going to be a handle for some sort of tote or bag. Learned some more about weaving with singles, mostly that I have to spin much tighter twist than I thought to have it sturdy enough for the beating of the reed. I also need to spin much finer. My 30 wpi singles was tight to weave at 15 epi. I need to spin something at closer to 45 or 50 wpi to be able to set the warps tight enough to match some of the historical items I want to make.
Now I'm re-warping the loom with some linen/cotton blend yarn to make some placemats. Yesterday during our Fiber Friday time I got the reed sleyed and about 1/3 of the heddles threaded. I may finish that this weekend then I get to tie on and warp the beam and start weaving.

Duct Tape Double

OKI've been shamed into it by Kass here. I too got to spend part of a weekend, actually last weekend, being wrapped in duct tape. Red Green would be proud!

Ken got the hanger attached to the fabric tube for a stand this afternoon. I'm planning on starting stuffing this afternoon or tomorrow.

I hope to have it finished by the middle of the week so I can start making some clothes now that it's winter and my time to do inside stuff.

First up will be a 15th Century Kirtle based on this pattern.

Then I'm planing a test run of a cloak out of a brown wool I have before finally cutting and making my Black Welsh cloak from my hand woven material from our sheep's wool.

I'm also planning on doing a duct tape double of my lower leg for sizing some cloth hose.

06 December 2007

St. Nicholas Day - Rain and Progress

December 6th and the framing of the roofline on either side of the dormers is nearly done. It's a bit hard to see from this picture but in spite of the constant drizzle a lot got finished today.

Larry was back with the last of the elk fence wire and got it hung and started stretching it. I didn't get any pictures, it was really raining when we went out. We put temporary gates up after chasing the deer out of the orchard. We are back again to deer proof, or at least we think so. Not coyote proof by any means but that's why we have so many guard dogs and with the sheep in the winter corrals they are not at too much risk.

What A View

We climbed up to the second floor to take a few pictures. Looking north out the back up the orchard. Still looking north but a bit to the east.
North but a bit west looking at the triticale field.
Front pasture where we had oats this year.
And the signature view from Garvin Mesa, Mt. Lamborn and Lands End with Redtop in front. The wonderful views caused a major design change. The original plan only had a single dormer facing south. We've decided to duplicate that facing north so I can look out at the sheep when I'm working upstairs. Seems a shame not to take advantage of such a nice view.

End of the day and the shop is looking nice.


One day later and the flooring is all up and installed and the west wall got started. Now the building looks really huge!

Fencing in the Mud

Welding on the final brace near the old gate went on in spite of the wet snow and mud. By the end of the day on the 3rd the welding was complete. Now we are waiting for the wire. Supposed to be here in another day.

2 December Update

Shop construction continues. With the first floor walls p and the sheathing mostly done you can start to see where windows will be. This is the view out the front window from the downstairs. We had rain followed by snow so the inside of the shop floor got covered in thick ice. We helped remove it so the floor could dry and be safe to work on. All the floor joists are in place now.

30 November 2007

Fencing Progress Too!

The north side elk fence has wire stretched across half the span. From the corner up to the gate in the middle. These pictures were taken before it was stretched tight and wired to the posts. By the end of the day yesterday wire had been hung and stretched on the second half as well. In the middle of the span there will now be a good gate. Before there was a rather broken down wooden structure that might have been able to be opened with great difficulty.

Welding of the remaining few braces at the end posts and gate openings continues but is likely to be finished today. Then there is just one more section of wire to stretch and attach. The last thing to be installed will be the new gates. Before all the gates are done we will have to make a pass through the entire place removing and flushing out the deer. It didn't take them long to figure out to come in to the orchard and eat. It's been over 25 years since they last had access but we counted 11 in one night and I think there may have been more. The dogs have given up and no longer even bark at them much less move them out.

Fast Pace on Shop Construction

The new shop construction is making great strides this week. The second wall went up rapidly on Tuesday.
By Wednesday the other walls were up and much of the plywood sheeting was installed.

Late Thursday was the start of installing the floor joists for the second floor. That should be completed today.

26 November 2007

First Wall Up!

Big day on the shop construction. The first wall was finished and erected! Massive effort but it looks lovely. Boy enough space to drive the tractor in makes a tall first floor.

22 November 2007

Monmouth Caps

I've been working on a replica of the Monmouth cap for a while. The only extant original is in the Nelson Museum and can be seen here .

My first attempt was based on several published patterns that are often referenced. One of them is here and the other is here.

Using our new bulky pure Black Welsh yarn I did the provisional cast on. Knit for a bit then did a purl row then knit again then join the sections at the provisional cast on to make the double brim.
This is my first attempt and while it is a nice hat it doesn't look much like the original.

My second attempt was done more the way I usually knit stuff. I leaped off into the yarn without a pattern at all. I started this version from the top down as to me the brim edge looks like a cast off not a cast on or join. I did a few bits of 3 stitch i-cord to make the button then did a series of increases and knitting plain until it was the right size. For the increases I did a knit in the front then knit in the back of the stitch as that made a better more solid increase and I don't want this to have any holes for cold air to leak in. For each round where I did increases I then did a round of plain knitting to make the hat work properly.

Once the hat was large enough around I knit straight until I was ready to start for the brim. I did an increase in every stitch to double the number of stitches on the hat. Then with help from folks at Taos who showed me how I used the tail end of the yarn so I was knitting from both ends and did double knit for the length of the brim. I'll have to get pictures of how I did it as once I figured out how to carry both front and back yarns in one hand without tangling it went very quickly.

The cast off was done with 2 stitches one from each layer and both yarns at the same time. At the end I did a simple loop chain to make the loop at the bottom of the cap. This version looks a lot closer to the original. Things I liked about doing it this way were that I could start with precious yarn and not waste any. I hate long tail cast on and other yarn wasting methods, probably a result of using my handspun most of the time and the effort to get the yarn made means I don't ever want to cut any off. So starting at the top meant I could knit straight through with no waste yarn. The double knitting went quickly and made a proper looking brim easily and the cast off looks more correct for the bottom than my first version.

Things I am not happy with include the increases on the top and some of the loose ends I haven't finished weaving in. The top increases don't quite match the original, but the picture of the original is poor. I have written to the museum to see if there are any better pictures but none exist. For now this is my best attempt so far on making a fairly accurate Monmouth cap. At least it is from very accurate Black Welsh Mountain sheep wool.

New Ditch Section

Our irrigation water enters the property on the north east corner of the orchard. From there we have a concrete ditch box that sends the water either west to irrigate the orchard and front pasture or east to irrigate the back cedars pasture. On the property above ours there is a gate right by where our ditch comes in and the neighbors cattle are always smashing down our ditch and we lose water. One task this winter while the cows are gone is to put in new culvert pipes from the new elk fence up past the gate so the cattle cannot walk where our ditch is. Here Ken is working on where the ditch water will enter the new culverts.

The first attempt leaked around the last joint but Ken got it fixed. The final installation looks great. We won't know for sure how it all works until next summer when full irrigation water is coming down the ditch but for now for winter stock water it's a big improvement.

Elk Fence Wire Up

The first section of new elk fence wire is up and installed. They stretched it from the middle where the 2 rolls that make up this side are spliced together. The high tensile wire can be hard to stretch properly but once it's up it's a wonderful fence.

With all the wire up and stretched the next step is to attach every other horizontal wire to each and every post. All the ties are twisted by hand and it can take a long time to get them all done.

Here is the fence nearly finished. There are only a few more attachments to make.