January 4, 2011

Shepherding, Shearing and Spinning!

The Maine House is hosting Afternoon Tea as we learn  how a passion from a young girl,  grew and developed into a vibrant resource!

I, myself,  have always had a passion for sheep. My aunt and uncle in Ohio raised sheep for a short time and perhaps this is what first gave me an awareness of their beauty. From time to time, I research sheep and have framed beautiful pictures of sheep throughout my home. Recently, I came across someone else who seemed to have a love for sheep and thought how interesting it was to learn about the manner in which her passion became .....

"Esther's Place!"

Natasha Lehrer's  inspiration came from the legacy of the agrarian lifestyle (1.pro-farmer: promoting the interests of farmers, especially by seeking a more equitable basis of land ownership 2. of rural life: dominated by or relating to farming or rural life 3. of land: relating to land, especially its ownership and cultivation)
 surrounding her home on the Midwestern prairie.  Natasha had moved with her parents as a teenager from Chicago to the small village of Big Rock, Illinois. Although not anticipating the awakening of her entrepreneurial spirit, she settled into rural life and after a while,  she considered raising sheep. One kind soul gave her a spinning wheel and fatefully the Lehrer house, recently purchased, came with a loom. Natasha taught herself the trade of shepherding after purchasing one mother ewe and a lamb.

In the fall of 2005, at the age of 19, Natasha won a USDA grant for single-use agriculture. She then purchased a large and rambling Victorian home and "Esther's Place" was born! Natasha connected the two worlds of farming and fiber arts and began teaching weaving and spinning classes, as her sheep grazed the pastures surrounding her new home!

Natasha has created a life of shearing, spinning and shepherding to produce man-made fibers from her shop and retreat center.

We pay tribute to Natasha Lehrer,  as she strives to preserve the process of her passion; raising Cheviot sheep and supporting local farmers. This is a house where Natasha's vision rings true...a place where all are warmly welcomed to learn, laugh, linger and be inspired.

Blissful Vanilla Bean Cake
3 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 whole vanilla bean, split
2 sticks, plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cup milk
5 egg whites
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom of 3 8" pans. Line each with a round of parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed, blend well. With the tip of a small knife, scrape out the seeds from inside the vanilla bean into the bowl. Add the butter and 1 cup of milk and mix to blend. Raise the mixer speed to medium and beat until batter is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites with the vanilla extract and the remaining 1/3 cup of milk. Add this to the batter in 2 to 3 additions, scraping down the bowl well and mixing only to incorporate. Divide among your pans. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake. Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto wire racks. Remove the paper and cool completely, about an hour.

Blissful White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1 cup butter, softened (Do Not Substitute)
2 cups confectioners' sugar
6 ounces white chocolate , melted and cooled
3 to 5 tablespoons whipping cream

In a large bowl, beat the butter and confectioners sugar at low speed until fluffy. Add in melted and cooled white chocolate and whipping cream (start with 3 tablespoons and add in more to achieve desired consistency). Beat on high speed for 3-4 minutes, scraping the bowl with a spatula.

Estelle's Friendship Tea (from my original Bell's Best)
1 18- ounce jar of Tang
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup of Lemonade Mix
1/2 cup instant tea
1 3- ounce package of Apricot Jello
2 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 t. ground cloves
Boiling water

Combine first 7 ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Stir very well. Pour and store in an air tight container. To serve, place 1 1/2 tablespoon of mix into a teacup and add 1 cup of boiling water.

"Winter...A lingering season,
is a time to gather golden moments,
 embark on a sentimental journey
and enjoy every idle hour."
 John Boswell


  1. I checked out Natasha's website and now have Esther's Place on my list of places to visit. "A candy shoppe for fibre lovers" indeed. I wish I could come have tea, too, but I'll have to "settle" for trying the Friendship Tea recipe...ummmmm, sounds so good for this Winter's day.

  2. How wonderful Patricia...I know this must be a great discovery for you...it would be an amazing place to visit...so glad you enjoyed it! Blessings!


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