Today I…..

Today I made bread, moroccan stew, lacto-fermented dijon mustard, butter, kefir, quark, feta and colby cheese.  Along the way, I helped milk a cow twice, cleaned the kitchen, filled the dishwasher, did a load of laundry, fed the sourdough starter, changed half a dozen diapers, fed animals, took a nap, brushed the cow, read a book with the kids, watched a few episodes of Timmy Time, skimmed off a supply of cream, finished up my first hard cheese (cheddar) from last night, made breakfast and answered business email.  It was an average day for the way things are going right now.  I took a few days to focus on finishing my book the first part of this week and fell behind on the milk supply.  I had most of a week’s milking in the fridge this morning when I started out- which is close to 20 gallons.  I’ve been feverishly trying to get that down over the past couple days.  It occurred to me while I was making the kefir this morning that it would have been helpful if someone had posted some pictures of what the grains are supposed to look like when I first started out.  So the next couple days I’ll be posting some pictures of what I’m doing in the kitchen…. butter, kefir, cheese, etc.  For today, here’s kefir:

Straining the grains

When you’re using raw milk, your kefir grains will be big and plump… kinda like tapioca.  You won’t have to worry about them going through the typical strainer.  If you use pasteurized milk, they tend to be really small and don’t multiply very much… generally you need some cheesecloth in addition to your strainer if you wish to keep your kefir separate from your grains.  Note the texture on the kefir below.  Mmmmm…. it’s almost a yogurt consistency, but still more of a liquid.  I made this batch of kefir by pouring milk into a half gallon glass jar, adding the grains and then putting it on my mantle above the fire.  I left it for 24 hours.  You can stop at 12 hours if you’d like, but my grains and the temperature of my house give me the consistency I like at 24.

Rinsing the grains

After you strain, you must rinse.  Don’t use water from your tap if you’re on a city water supply that has chlorine in it.  Instead you can use bottled spring water.  I use tap because we’re on a well and I haven’t had any problem with my grains by doing it this way.  I took some from this rinsed batch and put it in the next jar of kefir, currently sitting on my mantle.  The rest of it I put in a mason jar and put in the fridge.  It’s there if I need to make a big batch, or if I just want to share some with a friend.

It’s going to be another busy day here on the farm tomorrow.  Carson has the day off and is planning on setting up his woodworking shop in the barn.  I’m thinking about butterscotch and chocolate pudding, salty caramel ice cream and parmesan cheese as the main focus of my day.  I’m tired, so I’m going to finish this glass of wine while I wait to put the next set of weights on my hard cheeses.

What did you do today?

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New Year…. New Cow

So I haven’t posted in about a week I’m guessing…. I’ve been busy adjusting to the big change on our farm.  We finally got our cow!!  Introducing- Ruby!  (Insert fanfare here)

Ruby, the Jersey Cow

We are LOVING having Ruby in our lives.  She’s 3/4 Jersey, 1/8 Normande and 1/8 Guernsey.  She is “in milk” right now and she is also bred- due in June.  So here’s what happens when you go from no cow to large cow in your barn producing 3-4 gallons of milk a day:

First you panic, because you can’t drink 3 gallons of milk in a day’s time.  What you don’t drink needs space in the fridge while you think about what you’re going to do with it.  Then, gall-darnit, she goes and makes 3 more gallons the next day.  You move everything over, find some more glass jars and start trying to make a final decision on what cheese you’re going to start with, drink some more milk, but…. there’s still more coming and you haven’t dealt with the milk from the two days before.  The milk is now stacked on top of each other and you’re running out of sterilized jars to put the morning milking in…..

Actually, it wasn’t quite that bad, I was somewhat prepared with a plan.  I had an empty refrigerator ready and cheese cultures picked out.  It is still really easy to feel overwhelmed when you’ve never lived in a household that includes a cow…. and it’s still really easy to fill a refrigerator with milk!

Hmmm.... how will I tell if he likes the fresh whipped cream?

What I made in the first week:  

  • 3 batches of cheddar curds (AWESOME!!!)
  • 1 gallon of kefir
  • 3/4 pound of butter
  • Lemon Cheese
  • Queso Blanco
  • Several bowls of fresh whipped cream- (O…M….G!!!!!!!)
  • Several batches of hot cocoa
  • Mozzarella

    Mozzarella curd- before kneading

  • Sour Cream
  • Pasteurized and froze 5 batches worth of milk for soap
  • My mom took home close to 4 gallons…………and that left me with only 5 gallons left over to deal with this week.

I’d freak out….. if I weren’t having so much fun!!

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Goals for the New Year

There was a time in my life that I didn’t take the time to make “New Year’s Resolutions”…. it seemed like they were just a chance to break a few promises to myself.  I think the most common one that people make has to do with weight loss and exercise.  This is why your gym classes suddenly become packed around this time of year and also why it thins out after a few months when people go back to their old routines and give up on their resolutions.

I changed the way I approached this idea a few years ago.  That year, Carson and I were still hoping for a family (what were we thinking?!?!) and we decided to voice our intentions for the coming year.  Instead of wishes and hopes, we spoke of what we “intended” to accomplish.  We spoke it to each other and held each other accountable.  This can be very powerful, and you should never “put it out there” if you don’t really want it.  You should also put a plan in place to help you attain your goals.  Don’t just hope you will lose 25 pounds by saying it alone- you should also know how you’re going to do it.  We generally share business goals as well as personal goals, this year I will share a few of mine here with you!

1.  I will learn to cook based on Weston Price principles.  I will learn to properly homestead and my kitchen will be the nourishing heart of our home that I want it to be.  I am taking the Gnowfglins e-course to ensure my success!                                                                 – We are getting a cow TOMORROW!!  Stay tuned for cute pictures and more details in the weeks to come.  This cow will now be our source of butter, cheese, milk, ice cream, sour cream, buttermilk, kefir, yogurt and more…..

2.  I will SLOW down, even when I’m busy.  Having a weekly yoga class going on here at the farm is part of my plan here for sure, and I’m expecting some side benefits of weight loss and toning!!

3.  I will spend more time with friends and family.  I will not be responsible for an empty chair at my bookclub!  I will be more social!!

3.  I will expand our business in the following ways:                                                                         -I will get my book through editing and published by February (More on this to come, but I just finished writing yesterday!!)                                                                                                          -I will expand our Infused Honey onto at least 2 local restaurant menus and into at least 2 local bars.                                                                                                                                          -I will put our Honey Spreads into 5 additional Whole Foods locations, making it 7 locations altogether this year.                                                                                                          -We will expand our Medicinal Herbs CSA to 100 members.  We will find ground to rent to grow more crops.

What are your intentions for next year?  What do you most want for yourself?

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Resolutions and Our New YOGA Studio!!

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?  Maybe you celebrate the Solstice instead and state your intentions for the coming year with a delicious, hot mug of wassail?  Here at Mockingbird Meadows we’re all about these quiet promises to yourself and are working hard to help out!!

I began to put my intentions down on the Solstice, but probably won’t finalize them until New Year’s Eve.  I’ll share them with you in a posting later this week…. let’s just say I’m excited for the New Year!!

Just in time for the season of resolutions- we are excited to announce our new studio space here at the farm.  We will be starting with a Multi-Level Yoga class and hope to expand to Pre-Natal, Post-Natal, and Mommy and Baby Yoga classes to name a few.  As soon as the Yurt is built this coming year we will be excited to also offer MS Yoga as well!  Check out our new class info (Yoga 2012)- and if you’re in the area…. sign up soon!  Class space is limited!

 

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Just Between Us Girls….

FAIR WARNING MEN- now’s your chance to turn back… today I’m talking specifically to the women.

I have a confession to make….. since I’ve had my children, I haven’t been using my cloth menstrual pads. Granted, I haven’t needed them much over the past couple years, but every time I’ve had a cycle I’ve guiltily used disposable.

Some of you may not be familiar with re-usable in the first place, so let me give you an overview. Several years ago during the time I was examining a lot of my preconceived notions about day to day life, I was also thinking about what I would do when I had children. I knew I would NOT be using disposable diapers. There were the typical reasons, it seems wasteful, etc. But I was also concerned about the chemicals disposable diapers contained. I wanted my children to be able to reproduce, not have raging diaper rash or urinary tract infections. I realized that if I wouldn’t put a plastic diaper on my children then why was I using one for myself each month?!?

I began to research my options.  The company that makes the pad I could most readily buy was GladRags.  I have since heard from friends who get together and make their own in Tupperware Party-like events… I haven’t had a chance to make it to one, though I’m intrigued.  I’ve also got a friend who used to have a business making her own design.  If I can ever get her to start up again, I will definitely write about them here and do an introduction.  I like the GladRags in principle, but in design they are fairly flawed.  They place a cotton pad “inside” a cotton liner which then snaps into place over your underwear.

Ironed- Liners, Pads and a Panty-Liner

Unfortunately, this means that you have to change the whole thing every time and I find I need a lot more supplies than their website suggests.  Perhaps I’m doing something wrong, or maybe I’m just to squeamish to keep using a liner against my body that’s been bled on.  My friend’s design puts the pad ON TOP of the liner that snaps over your underwear… this means you can have unlimited amounts of pads, but you don’t need as many liners.

So back to my confession.  For one cycle I took these brand new supplies out of the box and used them.  As I have a diaper pail filled with water and soap at all times, it’s very convenient to just drop my used pads in there to soak and then it’s into the wash with them.  And by the way, if you think these will be stained unless you spend time pretreating and scrubbing- it’s not true!  I don’t do anything of the sort and they come out as good as new every time!  Here’s where my problem began……  These are cotton which is what makes them so soft and easy to wash…. it also makes them exit the dryer in roughly the shape of a wadded up newspaper.  So after I washed them, they looked so scary and intimidating that they went back under my sink in the bathroom and I went back to using disposable while casting furtive glances at the mountain of cloth in which I had insisted to my husband I needed to invest.

Pre-Ironing

My real problem- I HATE to iron…. so it had never really occurred to me to iron my GladRags.  That was tantamount to when my grandmother used to iron my dad’s underwear… it was just RIDICULOUS!  Yesterday, I finally broke down and got them out and fired up the iron.  To be honest, it was pretty simple.

If you decide to give GladRags a try, here’s my 2cents.  In my supply I have both the colored cotton and the unbleached organic cotton.  I’m surprised to say there is a big difference in the two.  The Organic cotton is heavier, it holds its shape better and irons easily.  It seems to be better at absorption as well, and is no less soft.  So if you can swing it, it’s definitely worth the extra money to buy the organic- and you’re saving yourself some more exposure to chemicals in an area that is very sensitive and capable of absorbing chemicals easily.  Just be sure to buy more liners.  Overall, you will be saving money if you consider how much you spend each month and then throw it away.

From now on I’ve made a deal with myself that when they come out of the dryer, they go right onto the ironing board!

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Our New Favorite Coffee Cake

Is Your Flour Wet- Coffee Cake

My husband hasn’t always been on board with our whole foods way of life. I’ve asked for an e-course for Christmas from Gnowfglins because I want to learn to cook properly with soaked grains and nuts and also how to properly ferment foods. When I tried to elicit a response from my husband because of what I perceive as a lack of enthusiasm, his response was…. “what do you want me to say? YEAH! Rotting, fermented stuff!” So I decided to make a soaked grain coffee cake from “Is Your Flour Wet?“, from the blog Kitchen Stewardship, on Sunday. You could cut the anticipation in my house with a knife…. a very sarcastic one….

First I’ll have to back up a few days, because at the heart of this recipe is 1/2 cup of butter and 1 cup plus more of buttermilk.  I made my own.  Here’s how I did it- I skimmed off probably about 2 quarts of cream from my milk jugs in the fridge.  You can just buy a carton of cream if you’d like- my preference would be Snowville Creamery!  I put that cream into a chilled KitchenAid mixing bowl with the whisk attachment and turned it on medium high.  I proceeded to chase around the children, feed them a few snacks, change a diaper and pour some Lavender Infused Honey into jars until at 20 minutes the cream finally “broke”.  Up until that time it had looked like beautiful whipped cream.  At 20 minutes it abruptly changed into butter and butter milk.  Warning- it also begins to throw buttermilk all over your kitchen if you aren’t watching it closely…. I poured off the buttermilk and saved it in the fridge.  I smashed the remaining buttermilk out of the butter while I kneeded it with a chilled wooden spoon and then I rinsed the butter until the water came clean.  My last post showed the finished product- see Comfort Food and Comfortable Living.

Now, back to my coffee cake.  Saturday evening I started my freshly ground flour soaking in my homemade buttermilk and set it on top of the fridge overnight.  Sunday morning it was ready to add the butter, sugar (sucanat) and spices.  It came together really quickly.  I found that I needed more buttermilk in the final mixing.  There was a drizzle that is added after baking and I changed that up a bit too with some almond extract.  Next time (and there WILL be a next time) I think I may add finely chopped apples to the cake mix.

Let’s just say when Carson took his first bite he was silent for a few minutes.  Then he suggested we could have that everyday for breakfast!  I don’t anticipate anymore reluctance in supporting my plan to eat more “rotting, fermented” stuff as we continue to change our daily diet!!

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Comfort Food and Living Comfortably

What does comfort and security mean to you? I think it changes from time to time throughout our lives… for many people comfort and security usually involves food. This can be the ice cream that you eat after a bad break-up or the holiday meal made with the traditional menu you’ve had since you were a small child.

Lately for me, feeling comfort and security is centered around my feeling of guaranteed access to my foods of choice. A more concise term for this is Food Sovereignty- the claimed right of peoples to determine their own food and agriculture.  In our times of increasing control by the government and large (non)food manufacturers- we’re in great danger of losing that right.  The Highest Courts in our land have ruled that we, as Americans, do not have the fundamental right to our own food choices.  A recent ruling in  Wisconsin set precedent that we don’t even have a basic right to the milk we get from our own cows.  We are living in a time where I do NOT feel comfort and security in regards to access to my food source…. ironic when many believe our country to be spoiled by too much easy access to food.  Sadly the “food” that is referenced in this belief is just food-like edible substance… not FOOD at all.

Over the past few years, I have become increasingly focused on amassing my family’s food source here on our property.  Security to me means stepping out my back door to harvest what I need.  This model includes Fruit Trees- apple, cherry, apricot, nectarine, pawpaw, pear, peach, plum.  Berries- raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries.  Nuts- pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds. Vegetables- working here on year round harvests using our greenhouse and field crops.  Protein- eggs, chicken, duck and turkey.  Grain- I plan to trade for grain or grow small scale.

The missing piece until recently has been dairy.  We are members of a herdshare here in Ohio- the only legal way to “buy” raw milk in this state.  As more and more farmers are subjected to black helicopter, guns drawn government raids in the FDA’s war against raw milk…. I grow increasingly convinced that my access to a herdshare is not “secure”.  Enter Zira, a beautiful mini-jersey.  We just put a downpayment on a family cow and will be going to pick her up within the next couple weeks.  The feeling of relief at this last bit of my security puzzle dropping into place is akin to sitting down to a big table of mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing and all the fixings…. I feel warm, safe, secure.  I know I will be able to provide my family with fresh, raw milk cheese, milk, butter, yogurt, kefir, ice cream and the list goes on and on!!  In celebration, I made my first batch of butter.  Check out the natural, dark, yellow goodness we’ve been spreading on toast the past couple days!

This coming February 18th and 19th will be the 33rd annual OEFFA conference.  The theme will be “Sowing the Seeds of Our Food Sovereignty”.  In my opinion, there’s another component to my food security plan above… and that’s healthcare.  On our farm we also grow the herbs that I need to care for my family in case of illness and accident.   At the OEFFA conference I will be speaking during a session I’ve titled “Healing Herbs and Your Health Independence.” It’ll be the first morning session on Sunday.  Be sure to check out OEFFA’s site here for conference info and registration. http://www.oeffa.org/conference2012.php

This conference sells out every year, so get your tickets early!!

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