Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Simple Pleasures

Nothing makes me happier than taking a peak out at the kids and seeing this!
We are lucky they get along 90% of the time.

And they truly enjoy each others company.
They are best friends!

We are fortunate to have been blessed with these little munchkins!

We have lots of greens sprouting and are waiting to hear back about the greenhouse we are interested in buying. Today we went on a field trip to check it out. After things are more definite I will post some of pictures that I took today.
The chickens have been free ranging and will do so until we start to plant the garden. Then they will be confined to their outdoor pens until fall. They are WAY to destructive in the gardens. We learned that quickly last year. We have some new additions here. In the last couple weeks we purchased 28 layers (RR reds), 40 meat birds (Cornish x rocks) and today we borrowed a boar to breed our 2 sows and we bought a barrow (castrated male pig). Tomorrow we will be getting several turkeys and Maine Man has Muscovy ducks in the near future.
We've had LOTS of company since the weather has warmed, usually daily. MM often jokes that people think we are a side show. (I am sure our neighbors think that!) Actually we have had lots of positive feedback and people have showed much interest in our lifestyle.

It has been a great experience for us and the kids!

P.S Did I mention I want cows too?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Making Mozzerella Cheese

One of the first books I read after moving to our farm was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I am sure many of you are familiar to this book. For those of you who are not, it is an inspirational book about a family on a quest to eat locally for 1 year.

The recipe that I followed comes from the their link above but I was unable to cut & paste it. (probably for copyright purposes) So I found another link that had nearly the same directions.

The recipe below is from Ricki Caroll. I encourage you to take a peek at the site because it has pictures to go along. I will take better pictures next time.

The above are the two ingredients you need and I bought them at the local natural food store. You will also need salt and 1 gallon of milk (I used organic raw milk from a local farm)

How to make this cheese :

The Milk:Make sure the milk you use for this cheese is NOT ULTRA- PASTEURIZED--Homogenized milk will work fine.--Fresh farm milk will also work well but we encourage you to try with 1 gallon of store bought whole milk first.--Low fat milk will work but the cheese will be drier and less flavorful

You will need:--A 6 to 8 quart stainless steel pot. Aluminum or cast iron will not work.--A stainless steel or strong plastic slotted spoon.--A two quart microwave safe mixing bowl--measuring spoons--A thermometer which will clearly read between 80 - 120 degrees F.

Prepare your work area:Do not prepare any other food while you are making cheese. Put all food products away. Move all sponges, cloths and dirty towels away from your work surface, wipe your sink and stove with soap and water. Finally use your antibacterial cleaner to wipe down all surfaces.

Process:crush 1/4 tablet of rennet and dissolve in 1/4 cup of cool unchlorinated water and set aside to use later.

Add 1.5--2 tsp. of citric acid to 1 cup cold water and stir well. Now pour cold milk into your pot. Then add the citric acid in a thin stream as you briskly stir the cold milk. This will bring the milk to the proper acidity to stretch well later. Next Heat this milk to 90F As you approach 90F you may notice your milk beginning to curdle slightly due to acidity and temp....NOTE... if having problems with milk forming a proper curd you may need to increase this temp to 95 or even 100F ...

When at 90F add your rennet (which you prepared in previous step) to the milk and stir in a top to bottom motion for 30-60 seconds...then stop.

Now turn the heat off (it may continue to rise as high as 105For so)

Let the milk remain quiet for the next 3-5 minutes during which it will form a curd. A longer set will result in a firmer curd.

Cut the curds into a 1" checkerboard pattern and then scoop with a slotted sp0on into a heat proof bowl to be used in the microwave. (If the curd is too soft at this point let sit for another minute or so)You will now press this curd gently with your hand, poring off as much whey as possible. Reserve this whey to use in cooking or making ricotta.

Next microwave the curd on HI for 1 minute. You will notice more whey has run out of the curd. Drain off all whey as you did before.Quickly work the cheese with a spoon or your hands until it is cool enough to touch (rubber gloves will help since the cheese is almost too hot to touch at this point)
Microwave 2 more times for 35 seconds each and repeat the kneading as in the last step. Drain all of the whey off as you go.
Knead quickly now as you would bread dough until it is smooth and shiny. Add salt near the finish.

At this point the cheese should be soft and pliable enough to stretch like taffy.
It is ready to eat when it cools. Form it into a ball and drop into ice water to cool and refrigerate. When cold you can wrap in plastic wrap and it will last for several days but is best when eaten fresh.

Option:--A substitution of reconstituted dry milk and cream is very viable and is a great option if you can not find the right type of milk--Lipase may be added to the milk to provide a typical italian cheese flavor--If you want a softer texture, do not let the curd set as firm and work less when draining and kneading.. this will make a moister cheese.

This recipe is called "30 Minute Mozzarella". And if you read the directions closely (I did not...no big surprise there) it is quick and easy!

The whole family liked it. We ate some warm, cold, and we finished it up today making some bagel pizzas. The only thing I would do differently is add more salt. I now understand why cheese is so expensive. The end result from 1 gallon of milk is a modest size mozzarella ball. (I will weigh it next time)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Maple Syrup Sunday

Last weekend we boiled down 9 gallons of sap. We used a propane turkey cooker and I cooked 2 batches, 4 gallons on Saturday and 5 on Sunday. It took all day, like 10-12 hrs each day. Most expensive syrup we've ever eaten. Had I planned ahead I would have gathered wood and cooked it that way but I did not. I also should have added to the syrup as it boiled down. The way I go about it this weekend will be based on the mistakes I've made. I will also use a shallow pan rather than the deep lobster pot as seen above. As of tonight we have 17 gallons to boil down. When the sap was boiled down I was unable to tell when it was ready. One web site said "it will have an oily appearance", and another said when it "reaches 219 degrees". I could use some HELP here from those of you that have experience with this!

Neither method worked perfectly for me. So I went by the guess factor and consistency, probably not the best method.

Batch # 1 after cooled had the consistency of honey. You could eat it by the spoonful and I DID! It is from nature, it must be good for you, right? :)
Batch # 2 turned out a bit on the watery side. Regardless of consistency it is the best maple syrup I've had since I was a child. As it cooked up the sweet aroma brought me back to my childhood at the sugar house in Canada. Interestingly, that is the ONLY memory I have of going there as a child.

On a final note, I will clarify that I did drink raw milk as a child. My brother reminded me after he read my post. My brother milked for some time as a teenager. He use to fill an old glass vinegar bottle after his workday was done. So I indeed did drink raw milk when I was at my Dad's on the weekends. Funny how I completely forgot about that. I think at the time I did not really know the difference. Last weekend we stopped and bought a gallon of raw organic milk from a farm in my brother's hometown and I made my first batch of mozzarella cheese and it was SO easy and tasty. The whole family liked it! I bet you can't guess what I'll be posting about in the next week or so. Things have been crazy busy here with Springs arrival. I will catch up on everyone's recent posts over the weekend.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sweet Dreams

Last weeks theme for Sunday Stills was water. I took a few pictures of the water holes on the farm and here you have it, 2 frozen ponds. I never posted the pictures because I thought they were lame compared to the other excitement we had last weekend. We can not wait until they thaw! This weeks photo challenge theme is lines and I took several different photos keeping that in mind. However, my battery is dead or I broke my camera when I dropped it on the stairs tonight. So I had to dig into my archives because my OCD will not allow me to post without a picture . I am unable to download my pictures from the weekend and my camera is making one funny sound. Maine Man is going to KILL me! He's going to think it was an intentional act because he knows I'm itching for a new camera. Can you imagine that me, Country Girl would do such a thing? Hee, hee....here I come e-bay! No really, I am a little sad because I had pictures to share for the challenge and pictures of our weekend including the makings of the BEST maple syrup you've ever tasted and I cannot tell the story without pictures.
The top picture is the pond right beside the house. This is where our 10 little duckies will reside. MM plans to make them a floating house so that they can stay clear of predators.
The bottom picture is of the pond behind the barn. This is where the kids spend most of their time frogging and trapping crayfish.
I am off to read one of the 3 books I have going (told you I have ADD)
I am currently reading :
A Small Farm in Maine by Terry Silber which is at the moment is my favorite because I am able to relate to the story in many ways.
In defense of Food by Michael Pollan. It is a good book but it has not kept my attention compared to the last book I read by him, Omnivore's Dilemma
The Power of Play by David Elkind is about how spontaneous, imaginative activities lead to happier, healthier children.
What are you reading? I'd LOVE to HEAR!!! C' mon ladies and Gents! Plus when I ever finish these books....June (I'm a slow read for lack of time and pure exhaustion most days) I will be looking for a good read.
Posts to come (as soon as my camera dilemma has resolved): Maple Syrup Sunday, Black Sheep (ha, not what your thinking), and a belated photo challenge.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Independence Days Challenge - Week 15

Plant something: I have started onions, broccoli, kale (1st time growing), cauliflower, peppers, lupines (from saved seeds), red & green cabbage. As soon as I complete this post I am off to plant more.

Harvest something: Cilantro & dill will be harvested by the end of the week. Sap is flowing from the maple trees.

Store Something: barley, spices, really nothing to speak of. Today I plan to make up some pizza dough and freeze several batches.

Manage Reserves: Consolidated everything into one freezer. A couple times a week I go "freezer shopping". Sure beats going to the grocery store but we are still very dependent on that.

Cook something new: Nothing nutritious but fun to make. Last night Luke & I made Stickjaw For Talkative Parents from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He brought the recipe home from school yesterday.

Here is the recipe if anyone wants to do with your kids or grandchildren.

Supplies: piping bag with nozzle

baking sheet lined with baking parchment

2 egg whites

a pinch of salt

1/2 cup sugar

1 pkg. toffee or carmel candy

food coloring (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees

2. Whisk the egg whites and salt together

3. Gradually whisk in the sugar until the meringue mixture is very stiff and shiny.

4. Spoon the meringue mixture into the piping bag (with nozzle in place)

5. Pipe a little meringue onto the lined sheet. Rest a candy on top and cover completely with more meringue. (method is to pipe like you were putting soft serve ice cream onto a cone... that circular motion)

6. Bake for 1 hour or until dry and crisp. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

*We added green food coloring to spice things up for St. Patty's day.

This week I also made a new blueberry muffin recipe that was very tasty. It called for lemon yogurt and I only had plain so I added a dash of lemon extract.

I am interested in hearing from others on how they cook with barley. This grain is something I have not used much except in soups.

Reduce Wastes: I dropped my old square Nokia cell phone in the dish water a few days ago and I was sure it was ruined. I placed it in a bag of rice (MM's idea, he's such a smarty pants) and 2 days later my phone was fully functioning. We also recycled a cell phone given to me by my buddy Mary. MM now has a phone that works all the time and it holds a charge longer that 5 minutes. I could not tell you the last time I renewed my cell phone plan. It drives Mary nuts that I do not renew and get new phones. For me it is not all about the money although I try to be a conscious spender. It is more about using things up until there nonfunctional.

Learn a new skill: Not sure if this is a skill but we learned how to tap Maple trees. This weekend we will boil it all down and learn to make sap. Here is one of the websites I used as a reference it anyone is interested. I am keeping a tally of the sap we gather on the side bar under my harvest keeper. We will see how much syrup we get in the end. Hopefully enough for a pancake breakfast. The ratio is something like 40 gallons of sap = 1 gallon of syrup. We are obviously not doing this for the quantity but for the experience.

I also have bought the supplies (camouflage fabric) to make these blinds for Luke's room. I found the link posted at Like Merchant Ships. If you are interested in frugal living & creative ideas this is a blog you must visit.

Work on community food security: I am planting, planting...running out of space. Very excited for this years garden. I just signed up to be a part of a forum based out of Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association called Eat Maine Foods.

Regenerate what is lost: There is very little food waste in the house between rabbits, chickens, pigs, and dogs. I do not even have scraps for my compost pile anymore :(

Not sure which category this may fall under but recently a made a window cleaner that I finally like.

1 cup water

1 cup rubbing alcohol

dash orange essetial oil, dash orange coloring

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunny Sunday

It was a beautiful weekend here on the farm and everyone agreed as evidence by the following photos.All the animals had the oppurtunity to get out of the barn on both days. The goats came out on leashes and they were groomed and hooves were trimmed.The chickens free ranged. It will not be long before they are in their chicken tractors. When the gardens goes in there will be no more free ranging until fall. Otherwise they will DEVASTATE the gardens.Only in Maine could you where the outfit above and below in the SAME day!This is not a normal occurrence. At least when I am around. MM is a little more laid back. I have PTSD from working in the Emergency Room too many years. When I came home from running a quick errand this is what I found. I was ok with Luke driving..........but when I saw Leah I was frightened. The kid has NO FEAR. She is a WILD child. Everyone has one, well she is mine! Yesterday we went to a sliding party at some friends just down the road. They have an AWESOME hill just outback of there house. I had barely said hello to my friend and there goes Leah flying down the VERY steep hill on a saucer hooting and hollering. People were looking around like, who's kid is that? She is SO me when I was 16 but she is ONLY 6! Yikes...I think we are going to be in for it!
Another thing about her is she will only learn when SHE is ready. Just today she learned to ride a 2 wheel bike by the assistance of her big brother and his buddy. They made treats for her and bribed her than they.....

Scored her abilities. Hey....What are you boys doing on my Momobile?

Later this afternoon. We tapped our 2 maple trees for a first time.

Maine Man drilled the holes.

Luke hammered the spickets in.And sap started running immediately. The kids were ecstatic!Leah hung the jugs. We planned to hang buckets but I saw over at Sugar Creek that they used gallon jugs. I thought that was mighty clever so we borrowed their idea.
Thanks SC!
Within minutes we had this. We have 4 gallon jugs out.
Just before bed the kids conned me into going and checking how much we had one last time.

Then we finished the night making sugar cookies. They were they some yummy!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Savoring the Moment

Maine Man & I were off today and the kids were in school. Unusual occurrence here on the homestead. He planned to go out back and gather wood since we only have a weeks worth left. We have burned about 7 cord this season. In my mind I was reviewing the endless list of things I could do then decided to go along. I find that sometimes you just have to say hell with it, "it can wait". It all to easy to get caught up in the routines of life.
That is something I love about the kids! Their spontaneousness
(I'd say I just made that word up because spell check is not finding it) , their ability to completely change my focus for the day. They do that too me on a routine basis. I never regret it!

Any how, we gathered some wood then went for a walk on the trail.

There is still lots of snow but regardless it was a gorgeous day.

Even Callie thought so. She loves going out back. The minute she has the slightest idea we are going out back she goes ABSOLUTELY mental until you hit the trail.

We gathered bows for the goats to munch on.

MM stacks the down brush to help house the wild critters (rabbits) in the long Maine winters.

Even though the snow has been melting slowly and most days have been cool. The preparations of Spring are still underway. I planted green peppers and cauliflower and plan to start more seeds over the weekend. A green house is in our future....post to come. We have lots of peeping chicks and ducklings in our wood room. We sold all but the 20 chicks (rhode island reds) we are keeping and 10 ducklings(khaki campbells). MM always orders by th 100...uggg. I SO want an incubator but I also long for a new camera, pressure canner, and a dishwasher. That is my WANT list for 2009.

On Sunday we are going to tap our two maple trees. I look forward to that adventure. Another first! On a final note I am dreaming of finding a local source of raw milk so I can give homemade butter making a try. Then maybe I'll progress to yogurt and/or cheese making. Maine Man grew up drinking raw milk. I have never even sampled it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday Stills-Self Portrait & Kid Interview

Cleaning the shed

I did not get very creative with this weeks photo challenge since I didn't start snapping any shots until yesterday. The theme of the weekend was working around the house so that was what I had to work with....barn attire. Don't let me fool you, I am by NO means one to dress up! I have one dress, it is black and I call it my funeral/wedding dress. I don't wear nylons or heels, I'm ALL ABOUT comfort.

Feeding the hogs.

Below is a kid interview that has been going around face book. I thought it would to be fun to post here with this weeks photo theme.

Luke & Leah were interviewed separately and the side notes are from yours truly.

1. What is something mom always says to you?

Leah: be careful (so true)

Luke: clean your room (they rarely do without bribery!)

2. What makes mom happy?

Leah: be good (true)

Luke: breakfast in bed (the kids did this for me on Valentine's day)

3. What makes mom sad?

Leah: when I'm being bad (true)

Luke: me growing up (I do whine about them growing up)

4. How does your mom make you laugh?

Leah: tickles me

Luke: when your tired and you say words wrong like when you kept saying hog house instead of log house when we were reading Little House in the Big Woods.
(we laughed until tears after Luke pointed out that I said it 2 times in a row. It was the night one of our hogs got loose)

5. What was your mom like as a child?

Leah: Long hair, blue eyes, good

Luke: You weren't really that cranky (? not sure where this came from but he's was a colicky baby and I sometimes tease him about it)

6. How old is your mom?

Leah & Luke 34 (right on!)

7. How tall is your mom?

Leah: 5-6 ft (5'4", your close girl)

Luke: 4 1/2 - 5 ft (a bit off)

8. What is her favorite thing to do?

Leah: clean the house (I promise you it is NOT my favorite)

Luke: get things done (he's right, I am goal oriented)

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?

Leah: work around the house (true)

Luke: feed the animals (this happens regardless if they are home or not)

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?

Leah: rock star (scary thought)

Luke: singing, if you take voice lessons (hee, hee, I was thinking he was crazy at first then he proceeded to answer and I was lol)

11. What is your mom really good at?

Leah: cleaning the house ( I would disagree here I just always seem to be cleaning like any parent or homeowner for that matter)

Luke: cleaning the house (too funny, I could think of better things that I'm good at)

12. What is your mom not very good at?

Leah: singing (ha, I'm really getting bashed on my singing capabities. I never said I was good I just like singing in the car)

Luke: skinning a fish or a deer (don't want to be good at. If I play dumb I don't have to do it)

13. What does your mom do for a job?

Leah: work at the hospital

Luke: she's a nurse who works in x-ray

14.What is your mom's favorite food?

Leah: twix (not, but I do like them)

Luke: lobster (right on)

15.What makes you proud of your mom?

Leah: when I do a good job at something

Luke: me or Leah achieving something (both right)

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?

Leah: Dafani from Scooby Doo

Luke: Ma, if Little House in the Big Woods was a cartoon

17. What do you and your mom do together?

Leah: read, she takes me bowling

Luke: talk, read Little House in the Big Woods
(Can you see Luke's fascination with this book series. I am starting to get a little obsessed too)

18. How are you and your mom the same?

Leah: blue eyes

Luke: we both have brown hair

19. How are you and your mom different?

Leah: you have long hair and your bigger and you have bigger toenails (?)

Luke: I'm a boy, your a girl

20. How do you know your mom loves you?

Leah: cause you kiss me

Luke: you always say be careful and the reassuring hugs & kisses every night


Last day of the season for MM & the kids to go out ice fishing. Lots of meat for the freezer and a great time shared with friends.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

1 Year of Blogging & Finding Balance

After we bought the farm I started doing some research on-line and came across many farming blogs. I thought to myself, "I can do that." I LOVE taking pictures and could use the practice. I also noticed that many of my friends and co-workers were very inquisitive of our lifestyle so THAT IS HOW THIS BLOG BECAME. Over the last year I have learned SO much from other bloggers and I have enjoyed sharing our new adventure here on the homestead. In this year I have had a few blog friends sadly delete their blogs and disappear from cyberworld and I have had a few question if they should blog on. Although I have only been at it for a year, the two notions have never crossed my mind. I will admit it has taken me some time to find that balance. Like any hobby it can be consuming as you let it be. I happen to be a computer junkie and it is the base of everything I do from paying bills, reading the news, cooking, working with my pictures and blogging. Over time I have realized, I just can not keep up with all the wonderful blogs I want to read. I was up many nights past midnight trying to do that. Most I only check in on periodically and get caught up. I have learned , I cannot post x amount of times a week. I post when I can. I never stress about the topic of my next post. Something always comes to me and I post when time allows. I have received many awards in this last year and I GREATLY appreciate. I have since decided that as I often lack time I will not accept (other than a BIG THANK YOU) or pass them along. (Because frankly YOU ALL DESERVE them) Instead from time to time I will take a moment to recognize some of my great blogging friends.

With that said thanks for following our journey for the last year. I appreciate all of my readers and I am always thrilled when I read my comments! BLOG ON!

I will end with some random recognition to a few blogs I follow.

2 nights ago as I was catching up on a few blogs as I discovered that Sallie @ A homestead Heart lost her husband of 30 years, my heart goes out to her.

I have followed Nie Nie's blog since just after her plane crash in which she and her husband were severely burned and the pilot passed. She is a young mother of 4. It has been a humbling experience to read her post.

On a lighter note my buddy from nursing school, City Girl just started a blog. I encourage you to go check it out!

And that is it for now folks. Off to do some MUCH needed domestic duties and then take some ducklings on a field trip to Leah's classroom.

What is wrong with this picture?