Monday, January 28, 2013

First Cheese

I was so excited to get my cheese making supplies that I got right to work making some this weekend.  First things first....a near sterile environment.  Of course I don't have the ability to disinfect my kitchen as well as an operating theatre, but I did everything I could to sterilize what I could and sanitize everything else.  That is of course the first rule of any kind of food handling especially when you are preserving it.  Then came pasteurization.  Since the animals are living off of silage at this time of year, it was recommended to pasteurize the milk for flavour (if you've ever had the privilege of smelling silage, you would understand why you would not want your milk to taste like it).

Luckily, since I've been preserving food in large batches for some time, I had all of the extras needed to handle 3 gallons of milk.  My large stainless stock pot fit nicely into the bottom of my pressure canner to make a respectable double-boiler, and the little thermometer that came with my kit was just the right length to fit into the milk (I would not have been able to rest it on the edge of the pot if I'd only made a two gallon batch).


After pasteurization, came ripening where I had to add a lactic starter.  This is when the smells of the kitchen turned from warm milk to warm, sweet whey.  If you like the smell of whey powder, which I do....that was it.

Then came the renneting, that's when you separate the curds from the whey.


It was so excited to see every step turn out like it was supposed to, I felt like an alchemist.  After all the stirring and draining etc.  I ended up with a respectable amount of curd that went into the cheese press and when I was finished with that, poured the whey back into the pot, heated it back up and added some cider vinegar to make ricotta.  Again amazing myself when I watched to the bits of ricotta magically appear in the pot, all the while squealing with delight.  So with the Colby curds in the press and Ricotta curds hanging in a cheese cloth, I was starting to feel pretty impressed with myself.


Dave was feeling mighty impressed too when I presented him with a warm bowl of curds and whey...I guess that will be a kitty treat every time I make cheese now.

The ricotta drained for a few hours then I crumbled it with some salt and dried herbs (from our garden) to make lasagna with.


After pressing for 12 hours, the Colby went for a bath in a heavy salt brine, where it will stay for 24 hours.  I haven't weighed it yet but I'm guessing it's just a little bigger than two pounds.


There was a little bit of cheese that had squeezed out of the edge of the press, so I tasted it.  I have to say, it tasted very, very good and I cannot wait until it's had a chance to age for a month.  I'll let you know how it aged, what it tastes like etc. when I get a change to crack it open.  Until then, if you have been wanting to try this in your own kitchen I would recommend it.  It's very satisfying and best of all, if you have any experience with preserving other forms of food, you will have an excellent grasp of how to prepare for making it and why.  I ordered they Hard Cheese Kit for home cheese makers from Glengarry Cheesemaking Supplies in Ontario, Canada, they were lovely to deal with and very helpful.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Look what the mail man brought me today!!!!!!



A CHEESE MAKING KIT!!!!!

I could not be more excited!  This is a Birthday present, I received a home cheese making book for Christmas and asked for the supplies for my Birthday, now all I need is a little time off of work and 2 gallons of milk.......wish me luck:)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Granny Fever

After many months of lacking inspiration to pick up yarn or fabric and make, well anything really....I ended up with an itch...no no, nothing that I need salve for, I mean an itch of inspiration...a yearning.  For what you ask?  For the simple, humble, timeless Granny Square.  I learned to make them 35 years ago while stuck at a  babysitter's for two weeks with Mono.  After the first week off of school I was still weak and ill but I could at least open my eyes up properly again, only to find Tina stitching away with a crochet hook.  I asked her to teach me and so I created my first Grannies.  After all this time I decided that I just had to make some, even though I would really prefer to knit any day over crochet.

I remembered the double crochet stitch and that you needed 3 to make a shell (at least for the pattern I was trying to recapture), I remembered you had to double up on the corners...but I could not remember how to start and finish rounds.  Of course YouTube came to the rescue and filled in the blanks that 35 years had erased and voila......Grannies....


....of different sizes, just to get the feel of it again.  What says home more that something made of Granny Squares?

Friday, January 18, 2013

All Gifts Great And Small

Haha, only a Homesteader would get excited over a gift like this.........and I am!



A very large, Hubbard Squash given to me by one of my customers just a few minutes ago.  I've mentioned before that after having conversations with people about my lifestyle and where my future homesteading goals lie, they come bearing home grown goodness.  This was given to me by a young chap who grew a garden last summer and had so many squash that he's getting kind of tired of them.  He's made roast squash, soup, loaves and pies and he was very happy to give me one (and will gladly give me more).  I think it weights about 10 lbs and since the "meat" in a Hubbard squash is quite thick and dense, I should be able to get several uses out of just this one.

I'm anxiously awaiting the weekend here at work as I wish to get cracking on that green beauty above.  It's very, very cold here this weekend so it's definitely an indoor one and using a hot stove sounds even more enticing.  I will be boiling some soup nuts as well to make shampoo and I'll let you all know how I make out with that.  I thought it would be a great time as well to put together my emergency bug-out-bag that I've wanted to make.  So far I have a few sensible items to go in...a wind up flash light/radio, bandages, lighter/matches, a multi tool, trail mix, granola bars, bottled water, meds, antiseptic ointment, antiseptic hand wipes and facial tissues.  There are of course many more things that will be going inside, but I have yet to buy them, like an emergency blanket, portable water filtering bottle, water cleaning tabs...it will be interesting to see if it all fits in my little nap sack.  I have my 72 hour, bug-in plan worked out just fine with the recommended water, canned food, lamps and oil, candles, cooking stove and back up generator but I had not really thought about the bug-out-bag that is also recommended in time of emergency evacuation so I thought it would be a great idea to do.

A few years ago we had to put the bug-in plan to the test both at home and at work when we were hit with an ice storm that coated everything and knocked out power.  Some were without power for 10 days, we were only out for 3 or 4, but it certainly made us aware of what we needed to improve and how lucky we were to have had so many things in place already.  During this time, Mr and I managed to eat a hot supper and get a hot shower every night and heat the house up in one good burst before bedtime.  We used the same generator during the day at work to give all necessary freezers and coolers a boost so that all frozen foods stayed that way and all perishable foods stayed, well....not perished.  We only opened the business during daylight hours so that we did not have to run any lights and we stayed bundled up to keep the furnace almost off.  I felt that Mr and I were a well oiled machine and our efforts prevented any loss of goods at our business and home, they also gave us warm(ish) and sound nights of sleep....and best of all, we were the first place in our area to have hot coffee and that made our customers and neighbors very, very happy.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Weekending

This weekend Mr and I took in the "Eco Expo" put on by the University of PEI's students.  There were a few people there that we wanted to speak to, one who built a straw bale house, one who built a passive solar house and a small company who builds small, sustainable homes.  Of course with any community gathering like that, you will always find a vendor or two selling delicious ethnic food...very tasty.

I came away with a little more knowledge on sustainable building, a lovely bar of home crafted soap made from goat's milk, sea weed and lavender....


...I also thought I'd buy some soap nuts and give them a try.  Especially since I have difficulty with commercial cleansers....


...the vendor provided a handy little bag that holds just enough nuts (about 5) to do a load of laundry.  Those same nuts should do another 4 loads or so.  I washed some sheets with them yesterday and they came out very clean and neutral smelling.

It was a perfect day.  The roads were bare, the temperature was mild and there was no wind.  The day was punctuated by a lovely Chinese Buffet lunch that was absolutely lovely.  Hope you all had a terrific weekend.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Hello Sweet Darling....

....I first noticed this beautiful fabric 2 years ago, tucked away in the bargain shelves at my local craft store. Every time I walked past the bargain wall I checked to see if it was still there and fell in love with it all over again.  I didn't know what I would use it for so I just couldn't justify buying it even though it was very reasonably priced.....couldn't justify it until a few days ago, when I just could not walk past it one more time!  That sweet lady was coming home with me...and here she is...


I have 2.6 metres of this lovely fabric and it goes absolutely, heart-breakingly (sure that's a word...why not) well in my living room/front hall.  I have decided to make several cushions out of it and maybe a whimsical little mantle scarf (if I don't go too cushion crazy).  I have always loved paisley.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Goals For 2013

Goal for 2011 was to make and sell knitted/sewed/crocheted items to reach a target goal of a specific net amount....I met that goal, then surpassed it by just a little.

Goal for 2012 was to create and publish to sell, 4 knitted patterns.  I blew that one sky-high by doing 7 patterns.

Now that I've had a day of down time and my brain and body have been reset....I'm thinking about what I want to accomplish for 2013.  This year's knitting is going to focus a little more on making stuff for me, of course if I come up with a good idea or three, I won't hesitate to share (as in a published pattern).  I'm thinking 1 vest, 1 sweater and couple of pairs of socks just for me, and a couple pairs of socks for Mr.  I would like to spend more time in 2013 at my spinning wheel, sewing machine and knitting machine also...they're kinda zen for me.

As far as the homesteading side of things go, this year's challenges will be both indoors and out.  Mr. and I are getting geared up to make our first cheese in about a month (I need to order a few supplies).  That is certainly something that neither of us have done before and really does fall right in line with all the other skills we've been working on.  Outdoors, I want to spend more time and effort in the garden and on the orchard.  We are getting the hang of it but there's always room for improvement.

Mr. has his heart set on a 3 kW solar system for the house.  It would be great if we could manage it this year...it's been on the list for many years.  3 kW of solar power, coupled with the small wind turbine we already have, would make a significant difference.  The difference for us would be in the heating of our home.  Our electric bill is very low (I don't know anyone who is on the grid who has a lower bill) so the savings would not be significant there as there is always a monthly service fee.  The savings would come into play by being able to use the electricity we generate to heat the house as opposed to using (or a supplement to) our oil furnace.  Mr and I are looking ahead to a future for ourselves where we are almost, or completely non oil dependant.  Our vision is of a life without an addictive level of consumerism, where 90% of our food is from local and preferably organic sources.  The vision extends to clothing and other household products, using only what we need and sourcing out the most sustainable products possible.

I recently shared our desire to make cheese with someone and the comment was "your life is going to be filled with all kinds of little things", the comment, although well meant, was a negative reaction to our desire to do and make, more tasks and items in and around our home than people in the western world currently do.  It was seen as a negative.  I look at it as a positive.  We have both learned many basic skills that people used to simply "get up and do", these same skills are generally not used in the western home any more as more things are mass produced and made to make life "faster".  I understand that our desire for a simpler life, using fewer dollars and more elbow grease doesn't appeal to many and may seem like a step backwards, but it does appeal to us and it fills us with a feeling of self-reliance that we had never had before.

So that's our wish list for 2013 in a nutshell.  If I look really closely at it, we're almost there anyway so the effort is certainly doable.  Whatever goals you set for yourself this year, I hope they all come to fruition for you.

P.S. can you believe that the first week of the New Year is already behind us....woooooah...I said wooooah! Time is moving by way to fast:)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!

Should old acquaintances be forgot and never brought to mind.....

...no way, not my motto.  This season saw a family get together to celebrate a special guy's very significant birthday!  The best part of this type of get together is the opportunity to not only celebrate a specific thing, but to also reacquaint ourselves with dear friends and family that we don't see very often, sometimes for years.  Mr. Homesteader and I travelled a short distance from the Maritimes to Ontario for this special occasion, and of course, since it's wintertime in Canada, we had storms.  Storms in Ontario that delayed all of our travel on the way there and storms in the Maritimes that delayed all of our travel on the way back.  Thank goodness we are hardy Canucks, made of tougher stuff than old man winter can throw at us.  The trip itself, once there was fantastic.  We got to catch up with close family and close friends that are always near to our hearts no matter how far flung to the four winds we all might be geographically.  Some of these friends, which I consider family, I have known since the day I was born and they mean a great deal to me.

So, our time was spent in a lovely 1850's house, come bed and breakfast in Almonte, Ontario.  The breakfasts were outstanding and the comfort and hospitality definitely rate an A plus from Mr. and I.


Top - a glimpse of the front veranda, overlooking the river.
Bottom - view of the B and B, taken from the bridge.

For anyone wanting a small town, old world experience, I think Almonte is just the thing.  It's old (by Canadian standards), charming AND being part of the Mississippi Mills system and area, it has a textile museum...I know!!!  Unfortunately time and holiday hours did not permit me to visit the museum but it's on my list for next time.  I did do a little textile work of my own while away...a little knitting to help me retain my sanity during all of the flight delays.



I find it quite humorous that the delays were longer than the flights themselves....and I'm so grateful that knitting is permitted both at the airport and on flights.

From my wee homestead to yours, Happy New Year and all the best to you in 2013.