Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Gail Callahan: Present in One Place

Fleece and fiber festivals reflect the connection between people, animals, and craftsmanship.

Gail Callahan. Photo courtesy of the author
The colors, smells, and air of excitement drive my love of fiber festivals, and the energy of combined passions gets my creative juices going. Every aspect involved in the process of making fiber is present in one place, each connected to and supporting the other, together under a warm, dry roof: farmers with sheep (and sheep dogs), spinners with fiber, dyers with yarn — the list goes on.

Margaret Radcliffe: Knitting on the High Seas

Every September, author Margaret Radcliffe sets sail for a week of knitting off the coast of Maine.

I just finished my favorite business trip of the year: sailing for one week on the historic J. & E. Riggin for the Maine Knitting Cruise.
Knitters ready to sail!
On this wooden ship, we ate wonderful food (locally sourced and cooked on a woodstove in the tiny galley) and enjoyed the hospitality of the two captains and the entire crew.
Ample sun to knit by
I love the intimacy of our small group. There are only about fifteen knitters, and sharing meals and living quarters for seven days lets us get to know each other and build a community. As a teacher, I love that I can wait for the “teachable moment” to show someone a new technique at the exact moment they need it, and that my cruise companions have the whole week to ask me questions they might not have thought of before.

Deborah Robson: The Acquaintance of Animals

Whether you’re a yarn enthusiast or purely an animal lover, a visit to the livestock barns at a fleece and fiber festival is well worth your while.

Deborah Robson, checking out a Shetland flock on Shetland. Photo by Mary Macgregor.
As I write this, I’m sitting in an apartment in Reykjavik, Iceland, nearing the completion of about seven weeks of travel, teaching, and looking at sheep in England, Wales, Scotland, Shetland, and Iceland. It’s been a great trip, and by the time I get home later this week I’ll have covered between nine and ten thousand miles (and seen at least twenty-seven thousand sheep, probably more).

Gwen Steege: Festival Fashion

At fleece and fiber festivals, fashion is more than just a spectator sport.

Gwen Steege. Photo by Dick Steege
Every crafter knows about those all-nighters before a holiday or birthday, when you still have several inches left to knit on that special gift you’ve been working on for weeks, or seams that need to be stitched, or buttons that are still not sewn on. The panic on those occasions pales in the face of preparing for a fiber festival. After all, if it’s “just” a gift, you can always be a few days late, but the festival’s date is firm, and you’ve been planning all year to wear your newest creation. Where else will you find such an appreciative audience for those perfectly-done increases on that lace shawl or the details (and anguish) that went into that stranded knit sweater — with steeks!

Kristin Nicholas: A Recipe for Lamb and Lentil Soup

Because sheep are more than just their fleece.

Photo by Kristin Nicholas
My family and I live in Western Massachusetts in an old farmhouse built in 1751. I am an author and textile designer of knitwear and stitchery, and my life has always been focused on making things. My husband grew up on a dairy farm not far from where we live now. When we met at Oregon State University, I was studying textiles and he was studying agriculture. We fell into a mutual love with each other, and with wool and sheep. When we got back to the east coast, before we were married, we bought four sheep. Some people get engaged; we got sheep!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Emily Spiegelman: Tips for Overwintering Geraniums

When it comes to keeping your favorite tender perennials alive through the winter months, knowing your own space is as important as knowing a plant’s climate of origin.

Dont’t toss those tender perennials! 
I have a neighbor with a geranium problem. She’s powerless to resist saving any geranium she fears might be destined for the trash, rescuing plants from the grocery store or taking them off the hands of friends who can’t be bothered to bring potted geraniums indoors when the weather turns cold. In winter, her living room is transformed into a crowded geranium orphanage.

While you don’t have to sacrifice entire rooms of your house to enjoy those colorful blooms and sweet-scented leaves year after year, Saving Container Plants authors Alice and Brian McGowan recommend carefully considering your space when investing in perennials that can’t live year-round outdoors:

Monday, September 29, 2014

Postcard from the Road: Nan K. Chase – Wine for Apple Season

When life gives you apples, make apple wine. 

Photo courtesy of the author
On the way home to Asheville, North Carolina, from the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, my husband and I stopped in to visit our super-gardener friend Tom in rural Virginia. Since I had been toting around a bottle of homemade apple wine for my demonstration at the fair, we decided to open it and taste the contents to see how several days in a warm car plus some jostling might have affected the flavor. Not to worry! We poured some, took a sip, and were amazed at how well it had traveled. The flavor was crisp, finishing slightly sweet and with just a hint of apple flavor. Yum.

Friday, September 26, 2014

For the Love of Peat, Enter Storey’s Tasting Whiskey Sweepstakes!

Celebrate Lew Bryson’s new book at WhiskyFest NY

Tasting Whiskey has been called “the only whiskey book you need.
In a recent article by Sharon Kitchens on Huffington Post, Andrew Volk (a 2014 Coastal New England Rising Star Bartender and co-owner of Portland Hunt and Alpine Club in Maine) noted that for him, drinking whiskey “is all about mood. In the winter or after a long meal, I love sipping the peaty, smoky Scotches. But on a warm, summer day I’m much more inclined to grab a bourbon and lemonade or an Irish whiskey.”

My own approach is not nearly as nuanced. My whiskey education began with the boozy red maraschinos that my father would dredge from the bottom of his bourbon Manhattans and for most of my life, the idea of sipping an actual bourbon — cocktail or straight — triggered a shudder. But somehow (and I really don’t recall how it happened), in recent years, I’ve changed my mind. Bourbon has become my beverage of choice at a party or on a chilly autumn night at home. I’ve even begun to seek out, and prefer, the product of local distilleries. My mother prefers Scotch — something I have yet to acquire a taste for. But if I wanted to find the perfect entry point to that hard-to-pronounce single-malt, say, to understand its history and unique characteristics, and learn how on earth to approach tasting and appreciating it, I know exactly where I’d start.

Whether you’re an Andrew Volk type, armed with ample whiskey savvy, or more of a curious-but-largely-ignorant type like me, Lew Bryson’s new book, Tasting Whiskey, is about to become your best friend. And to celebrate the book’s impending arrival on shelves, we’re giving away a prize you’ll love: two tickets to WhiskyFest New York, the longest-running and best-attended whiskey festival in the U.S., and copies of Tasting Whiskey, of course! We’re choosing a winner in early October, which (luckily for you) means you still have through Tuesday to enter.

Visit our Sweepstakes website to enter, and to learn about the book and the festival.  — Emily Spiegelman, Digital Features Editor

Enter the Tasting Whiskey Sweepstakes

Still not convinced? Get a taste for Tasting Whiskey here:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Andrea Chesman: Harvest Triage

Let’s be honest: how much zucchini bread do you really want to eat?

Abundant eggplant
Fall is coming. We feel it in our bones, we see it in the forecast, in the trees that are turning. The kids are back in school, and, of course, the tomatoes and peppers and eggplant and zucchini and green beans are piling up on the counter and overwhelming the refrigerator. What to do? Who has time? It is harvest triage time.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Our Authors, On the Road: September 24 – October 7

Our authors are out and about, celebrating sustainable food, beer, flip, and the arrival of new books. Here’s where you can find them over the next two weeks.

Kirsten and Christopher Shockey hit the road with their new book, Fermented Vegetables