Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How Does Your Garden Grow

I am starting to think I may be single handedly responsible for our local drought.  Since moving here I have steadily increased my gardening skills, starting with pretty plants and then focusing more on edible plants.  But the drought stopped me cold.  It became nearly a full time job to water plants and it seemed irresponsible to water plants that didn’t produce food.  I gave up.  Then last year we had rain, glorious rain and I decided to start gardening again.  And would you know it…since I started this year’s garden…no rain. 

But alas it’s too late to stop.  All I can do it obsessively watch the Weather Channel hoping for rain.

Gardening step 1. Plant seedlings so you are obligated to build the garden so they have a place to live.

Heirloom tomatoes (Black Krim, Powers, Aunt Rubies German Green, Homestead 24,
Crimson Cushion, Yellow Brandywine Beef Steak), zuchini and basil starting to come up.

If you build it they will come...starting on the cedar raised beds.

We took out a huge bank of shrubs and trees.  Maybe one day the back yard will be a nice place again
  (we have pretty much ignored it for about three years).

Husband tilled for me.  I really wanted a "real garden" but because the garden is on a slope
I decided beds were the only reasonable alternative.

Till baby Till

Beds in place and time to ammend the soil.  I have started a huge compost pile but until then I am using various bagged amendments (mushroom sompost, natures helper, all the usual suspects.

thats better

They are getting bigger every day.

I am so excited about these tomatoes.

Almost there

Kefir Cheese

My new obsession is the making and subsequent texture perfecting of kefir. If you are unfamiliar with kefir let me catch you up.

Kefir (pronounced /kəˈfɪər/ kə-FEER [1]) (alternately kefīrs, keefir, kephir, kewra, talai, mudu kekiya, milk kefir, búlgaros) is a fermented milk drink made with kefir grains that originated with shepherds of the North Caucasus region[citation needed], who discovered that fresh milk carried in leather pouches would occasionally ferment into a carbonated beverage. It is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep's milk with kefir grains. Traditional kefir was made in skin bags that were hung near a doorway; the bag would be knocked by anyone passing through the doorway to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed.

Making Kefir is really easy...perfecting it is a bit tougher. The nice thing is that the kefir grains are very safe to use, so if you mess up it is really a matter of not getting the taste you want rather than making an inedible product.

Kefir grains

Kefir grains in milk

I have been having a bit of trouble getting the texture I want with my kefir. Generally I am letting it ferment a bit too long. Then the other day I really let it go too long and had a lot of separation. There was only one reasonable thing to do (in my mind) which was to try my hand at making kefir cheese.

Of course I decided I didn't want to follow directions. I would just make it up as I went along.

draining the whey
The resulting "cheese"

Let's try it on a cracker...

How about rolling it in herbs.....
Well the verdict...I thought it was similar to a mild goat cheese.  My husband decreed that it did NOT taste like goat cheese at all but it wasn't terrible.  So perhaps it would be fair to say it fell somewhere between the two.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Welcome to Christmas Very Much

My husband deemed this post to be NOT polititcally correct. So I am moving it to my personal blog...because quite frankly it makes me laugh. And of course no one reads this one...so I can be as pollitically incorrect as I want.

Welcome to Christmas time. I am Twinkle the Christmas Elf and this is Dixie the not-Christmas cat. Together we will show you house is round.
I am much merriment this house

So soft to touch nice cat pillow

Cat is pretty in sitting train

Much stuck in large decorate tree

This dog has no dignity to remain

I am silly in wrapping papers

There is much love tollerance of species at time of  Christmas

We do not like the big black cat...we laugh at him far from glass window.

FYI...Twinkle was made in China

Monday, August 15, 2011

Back to School?

We celebrated the first day of "school" or as we like to call it Parent Facilitated Learning, by visiting the City History Center, with several hundred of our fellow homeschooling friends.

T wanted to pose as if his head had been blown off by the cannon. Why yes....I AM very proud.

Can you feel the learning....neither can I.

If you are wondering if this is "historical" I can assure you it is not. But it is fun.


Hello Dr., please send mom more anti-anxiety meds stat!

Oh look, it's learning. Finally, now we can go home.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chicken Feet

I recently bought a few pastured chickens. For the past year I have only consumed grass fed/pastured animal products. It can be difficult to find pastured chickens, so I was more than happy to drive to a local farm and pick up a few birds on processing day.

Processing day is when a farmer sets up a processing tent and kills and processes a bunch of chickens. Then customers come with ziplock bags and pick up fresh chickens.

In addition to chickens you can buy chicken parts. Parts like necks, gizzards, and feet. Good lord......feet. But as I stood there waiting for my chickens to be bagged a nice lady was explaining how chicken feet make great stock. Oooh, I'm obsessed with chicken stock. Well you would be too if you paid 15 dollars for a chicken. Trust me, you use every bit of a 15 dollar chicken.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, September 17, 2010

Making Butter

Try this, it’s fun.

After taking my kids to the History Museum for Homeschool Day, I decided to try to incorporate what we learned into some fun projects. Thus was born my plan to make butter. I remember making butter in elementary school. We put cream in a jar and took turns rolling it around the classroom and finally we ate what amounted to thickened salty whipped cream on little crackers. Since that time, the creation of “real butter” had remained a mystery to me. After leavening the history museum we stopped at the store for some organic cream and bubble gum*. Then I did some quick internet research. Making butter seemed easy enough. I was really excited about the whole project and the kids were a little excited too. I mean not THAT excited since there was no sugar or video games involved but these days I take what I can get…..

Making Butter

You will need 2 quarts of organic cream (minimally pasteurized and non homogenized if possible) and a pinch of salt.

Place the cream into a mixing bowl and begin to beat/whip. I used my Kitchen Aid mixer and the whipping attachment. You can add the salt to taste at this point or at any point until the very end.

Start mixing the cream on high speed. At first you’ll essentially be making whipped cream. You will see the cream start to thicken and after a few moments it will stiffen. You may at this point, wish to plunge your face into the bowl because whipped cream looks just so freaking delicious, but remember we didn’t sweeten the cream, we added salt, so trust me…you really don’t want to taste it. Yes, I know that a guy on Top Chef used salted whipped cream during the finale of the show, but he didn't win did he.

Now the fun starts….or if you are a seven year old boy…the fun stops and you say “mom…can you just tell me when it’s ready”

So anyway, at this point the cream will start to break down but you won’t really see anything happen for a while. The cream no longer looks like whipped cream but more like melted ice cream. It will also get a little messy because it might start to splatter. AND let’s be honest this stage is a little boring and it might take a few minutes but don’t give up hope. Cover your mixer with a dish cloth to catch the splatters and wait.

Soon you will hear the sound of liquid hitting the cloth and suddenly you will hear a glop glop sound from the mixer. Take a look you will see chunks of butter clinging to the beaters. Beat for another few seconds and you have butter. The liquid left in the bowl is buttermilk-yeah REAL buttermilk. But you aren’t finished yet.

Using clean hands gather up all the chunks of butter from the bowl and beaters and then holding the clump of butter over a colander rinse and squeeze the butter under cold running water. You could also rinse your butter in a bowl of icy water. Either way you need to rinse the butter. As long as you don’t use HOT water your butter will hold together.

Now you can mold your butter. I just rolled mine in wax paper and cut it into small pieces. You might want to freeze the extra butter. Homemade butter won’t last nearly as long in the fridge as the stuff from the store. Just thaw as needed.

Comparing my butter, "real" butter, and farmers market butter (in the tub)

Cutting the butter into pieces

My actual new goal is to make butter from my raw milk….but separating cream is not as easy as you might think and after feeding two unsuccessful batches to the dogs…well I’m taking a break from raw milk butter making for a while.
Now to address a question my husband presented...Is it cheaper than organic butter from the store....well no. Is it healthier than organic butter from the store? Well it depends, if you can get pastured, non homogenized, lightly pasteurized cream-then yes, otherwise no.

But it is still cool to try just once. YUM!

*Bubble gum not necessary for making butter.
*Bubble gum may be necessary for appeasing children.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Country Roads Take Me Home

I just came home from Haywood County, NC where my daughter and I attended a fabulous plant swap at the Lazy Dog Ranch, home of Shannon (my childhood friend) and her husband Karl and various dogs, cats, chickens and ducks. I am not sure who had more fun...but if I had to guess I'd say my daughter had the time of her life running around, playing with dogs, feeding chickens and generally running wild. I also came home with fresh scones, eggs, and 6 perennials from the swap. I’d call that a successful visit.

Shannon and Karl's lovely cabin.

A warm welcome from the garden gnomes

Shannon's plants ready to swap.

Waiting for a fist fight to break out over the orchid

"J's" new best friend Rupert

Looking toward the orchard

Looking toward the kitchen garden

Hill side flower garden

Mountain Vista

Lovely ladies

Thanks for the hospitality y'all