Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cheese and Milk Ramblings

So, I made some cheese for the first time. In fact I tried it twice. I was going for mozzarella, but both times the cheese would just not"glue" together, turning into the stringy, creamy, taffy-like mozzarella it's supposed to be. I followed two different recipes and both times I got ricotta; a very yummy ricotta, but still it wasn't mozz. I think it was the milk. I've read that dairies sometimes pasturize milk at the higher end temperatures which kills a lot of the proteins that make the cheese. I thought organic milk would be a good option, but it turns out that the big chain organic milk is ultra-pasturized which means it is pasturized extra long so that it can be shipped long distances without being refrigerated. In essence - it's shelf stable milk. No wonder it has that special taste...
The best milk to use for making cheese is raw milk which you can then, in turn, pasturize yourself at the lowest of the temperatures for pasturizing. Finding the raw milk is the hard part. It all boils down to bacteria. Because of Utah state laws, farmers who sell raw milk have to keep it hush-hush so they don't get in trouble. Does anyone else see the silliness in all this? If someone wants raw milk, why can't they be allowed to buy it from the farmer without anyone getting in trouble? People eat produce from the store that they don't wash. Think of the risk there, and yet there are no laws about that. (I guess they can't do everything for us, and that's a good thing.) Anyway, raw milk is not a dangerous chemical or addictive drug. Pasturization is good, I think, but if we don't want it pasturized, why can't we buy it the way we want? I'm sure there's more to this issue than I realize, but I just want to make cheese, darn it!
Man, where's that milk cow in my backyard when I need it?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Not So New Way to Recycle

Recycling is a word that makes you feel great or guilty. The word is pushed on us, calling for us to take responsibility for our actions and for our planet. Some people don't care and don't bother. Other people are obsessed. But most people, I think, are an odd mix inbetween - half-heartedly recycling, doing it enough to make themselves feel good without having it become an inconvenience. It's an interesting dance of balance about what you believe and feel comfortable doing and what society expects of you.

What do you think of when you think about recycling? Big blue bins waiting on the curb stocked full of washed out cans and cardboard boxes? How about washing out plastic ziploc bags to reuse them... Am I the only one that does that? It's a pain but so worth it. We save tons of money! Well, anyway, those are two way of recycling, but today I'm here to remind you of another way to recycle - reusing. Yes, washing out plastic bags is one way of reusing. Have you ever shopped at a thrift store or an antique store? Well, then you've reused! I don't think there's anything more fun than finding a sweet deal at a yard sale or a thrift store. Heck, yesterday I went a little crazy because I was feeling the bug. At the thrift store I found: handcranked metal meat grinder - $3, cast iron frying pan in good condition - $5, a heavy duty tub with a lid - $4, a very nice metal pastry blender - 50 cents! Then, at the antique shop I found: a set of 3 cheese graters that my mom used when I was growing up (they ROCK!) - $12 for all 3 (it would cost that much for a new plastic one), and a vintage, beautiful, pale yellow ceramic serving bowl - $9 (marked down from $21!)

As fun as finding all that was, my ultimate reusing feat (heck, they really just call it thriftiness) was reusing an old, despised laundry basket. This is what I did with it:

I cut holes in the bottom for drainage with a jigsaw. Then, I taped a plastic grocery bag to two sides (kind of as an experiment) and the other two sides I covered front and back with clear packing tape.

Then I filled it with dirt! It was the perfect, shallow planter for my lettuce. And it makes me giggle that I can see the dirt through the clear packing tape. :-)

It's a little silly, but I'm pretty proud that I thought to do this with the basket. See, thriftiness is a learned skill. My mom was excellent at it and she learned that from her mother. I used to be pretty good at it, but with a lot of moving around and school I lost touch with my inner creativity and imagination. It feels good to stretch it a bit!

Let me know ways that you have found to reuse things or any amazing finds you've had at the thrift store, antique store, or yard sale. I'd love to hear about them!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Garden, Market and More

Beautiful Local Eggs

Speaking of eating locally... You know how "people" say that it is better for people to eat what is local healthwise because they should eat what grows naturally in their climate? Well, I think there's good points to that, but I don't necessarily want to give up pineapple just yet. Anyway, something weird happened to me when we moved to Cache Valley. I think we had been living here for a month when I started to crave raspberries. Really bad. Okay, so I was pregnant at the time, but it was a different type of craving. It was a deep, subconscious need that was completely mystifying! When I learned that raspberries are a huge crop in this region, it just blew my mind. How did my body know that?? I had never craved raspberries before in my life, and here I was tuning into what was grown naturally in Cache Valley. Strange...

Okay. So, I was getting sick of babysitting my poor little weakling tomato plants by bringing them inside at night. A few nights ago I had had it. I yelled at them through the screen door "If you don't make it through the night, then you don't deserve to survive!" I was pretty darn resolved. Then later, I heard it raining hard and gasped, "My tomatoes!" I ran to the back door where they sat there huddled against the wind and the cold rain. Actually, the wind wasn't that bad - the tomatoes were staked well. And the rain wasn't that hard. It was actually pretty gentle. So I said, "Heck with you boogers. Tough it out!" and walked away. And they've trucked along. There's even a sign of a flower bud on one. I guess you never can tell how much gumption a plant's got until you let it alone for awhile. Pictures of my garden:

Wimpy tomatoes. At least they're green, even if they're a little sunburned.

My two proud Brandywines. Can you tell which one came from the nursery? (Look for the one with the macho stem.) The container is a tub from the thrift store that came without a lid - how perfect for plants!

This jalapeno plant survived a 36ยบ F night and survived like a champ! I call it the Miracle Jalapeno. He has since been joined by 2 others...

My beautiful Purple Kale that I couldn't resist adopting from the nursery.

My happy herb garden. Left to right: Rosemary, Purple Sage (I love this plant!) and Cinnamon Basil (oooh! Fancy!)

Farmers' Market Spoils: Oregano, Butter Crunch lettuce plants, spinach, eggs (aren't they beautiful??) and goat milk soap - Forest Glade scent, mmmmm..... :-)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cache Valley & Eating Local

Beautiful Cache Valley, Utah

I am really interested with the concept of eating locally. I try to imagine myself stocking our shelves and our fridge with nothing but what was grown or raised locally - local meat, cheese, milk, eggs, produce, etc. I try to imagine myself living without bananas or fresh pineapple. (Does canned pineapple count?) I try to imagine also eating what was only in season and what we lay up in store for the winter. Could I do it? Could I really eat locally? I like to think I could, but I know it will take one step at a time to conquer that mountain of changing habits.

Which brings me to my experience today. I was getting together a package to send to my family out in Indiana. I was trying to get a lot of holidays and special occasions covered in one box. And I wanted to get them something special. I like getting food because it doesn't sit around gathering dust (at least that's the hope), and it gives a lot of pleasure. So, I thought, "Hey. I'm going to get my step-mom some of our local raw honey from Cox Honeyland and some cinnamon basil seeds from our locally-owned gardening store." (Well, I thought that in so many words...) I continued on that line of thought and ended up getting my dad and brother some coffee beans from our local coffee roasting company Caffe Ibis (organic, shade grown, and fair trade!). I felt bad that my little brother wasn't getting anything, so I headed over to our local candy factory, Bluebird Candy, and got him some yummy chocolates.

As I was packing up the box I was struck with the realization that I was sending them gifts that were 100% supporting local Cache Valley companies. I then got this overwhelming sense of satisfaction and happiness. I felt like I was so integrated into my community that I could support the companies in that way and also have wonderful unique gifts to send to my family that they couldn't buy anywhere else but here. It may not sound that big of a deal, but to me it was huge.

I actually feel really lucky living here in Cache Valley. We have a local cheese factory, candy factory, local grass-fed beef ranches, local eggs, local honey made from local flowers by beautiful bees, gorgeous huge raspberry farms, multitudes of fruit trees like apricot, peach, apple, etc. and the list goes on! I guess I've taken all of this for granted the entire 3 years I've lived here and now that my husband is looking for a job with no possibilities of staying here in Cache Valley, I am tremendously sad at the thought of leaving! What will I do without the cornucopia of local offerings? It's hard to believe another place will have so much to offer. So, to compensate, I'm stocking up on the honey. :-) And I'm going out to Bear Lake for their famous raspberry shakes in a few weeks. Mmmm. My mouth is watering. Live it up in Cache Valley while I can!!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Farmers' Market Begins!

Today the clouds look like carded wool. The sun is shining and the breeze is cool - a perfect Spring day for the start of the local farmers' market. I love going to the farmers' market, even when I don't buy anything. Like today.

My husband, son, and I got to the park where the market is held a half hour after it started. It was already packed and bustling! I shouldn't have been surprised, but the business made me smile. I think it's so great rubbing elbows with neighbors and fellow Cache Valley residents. And it's grown so much since last year! Buying something from the market always gives me an immense sense of satisfaction. I think it's knowing that someone that lives down the road made the cheese that I bought or spun the wool and knit the shawl that I admired - that buying something there is like buying a piece of my community and I become even more connected than I was before.

But, alas, this time I had forgotten to bring cash! We slowly meandered between the stalls past goat soap, hardy seedlings, 6-packs of hodge-podge colored eggs, fresh crackling bread, and various homemade crafts, and yet I couldn't buy a single thing! We didn't stay too long, but it was good to just feel the companiable vibe in the air, to hear the noisy, happy chatter, to smell the fried onions and perfumed soaps in the air and to feel the sun on our heads.

Even if I had had cash, I don't know if I could have justified buying anything, though. Our fridge at home is overstocked with wilting kale, yellowing broccoli, year-old dates (they haven't gone bad yet!), multitudes of miniscule postions of leftovers, and a variety of store-bought breads. My whole fridge fills me with guilt. Not because it's dirty (I actually cleaned it a month ago), but because I know that I want to learn to eat seasonably, to eat the bread I know how to make but don't, to be so organized that my menu recycles and uses leftovers in clever ways, to be using our food storage so that we don't buy as much at the store, to really cut back on packaged foods (like pasta which I'm confident that I could make), etc., etc., etc!

I long to join a CSA (we're job hunting after just graduating from school so that's not possible), and to know the story behind the food that we eat. Aaah, so many goals and so many frustrations. I tell myself that when we move and are settled, that it will be different. Maybe it will be, maybe it won't. I just need to remind myself to do what I can right now and be content until improvements can realistically be made. And the next time we go to the farmers' market you better believe that I won't forget my money! (And that I'll have an empty fridge.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Learning to Listen

This morning was beautiful. My two-year old son, Tommy, and I went for a walk to enjoy the spring weather. As we started off, we encountered a cheeky bird that sang proudly from a telephone wire. I have no idea what type of bird he was. He was nearly the size of a robin, with a black throat, creamy lemon breast and a brown back. His song was beautiful and chipper. We paused to watch him throat his wild calls. In that moment I realized that I was listening - a skill I knew how to do in my younger, more carefree days, but had somehow forgotten. I needed to relearn how. So we set off again and I was determined that I would not only listen, but that I would also see.
Our neighborhood borders the country, sharing a long, straight road that disappears into the purple, white-capped mountains. I decided to head down this road to check on what I like to call our "local homesteads" and to see what they were up to.
The first house was white and sprawling, a small leafing tree sheltering the doorstep. A mini trailer-looking house serves as a chicken coop. We could hear invisible chickens clucking and roosters crowing. The house sits on about an acre and it seems devoted to the chickens with good fences protecting them from the road.
The next house is a large two-story brick and stone farm house with a long porch. Their skinny strip of garden next to the road has been tilled, waiting for the plants that will soon be growing there. Their man-made pool has its waterfall running, creating the false sense of a trickling brook nearby. It's a pleasant sound. On their lawn sits rusting old farm machinery from antique times and a ramshackle barn shelters a red tractor that's seen better days. Their buttermilk lab stares at us from behind the fence. We pause and wave 'Hello.' The melancholy dog sits and stares. He looks like he needs a good rub on the head, but we continue on.
At this point, the countryside opens up to green fields and plowed black cropland. Horses lounge lazily in the golden sun and we roll up to a small pen of cows. We stop and exchange glances with a warm, brown cow. Birds dart in and out of the pen. They remind me of sandpipers with shorter beaks. I still don't know my Utah birds and I suddenly become homesick for the bluejays and cardinals of the midwest. A large, spotted steer rumbles with a bored "moo" and we smile. The cool breeze brings us the smell of sweet grass, hay and manure. It sounds strange, but the perfume makes me giddy.
Our way back faces into the sun. Clouds drift across the blue sky like shreds of silk. Everywhere trees are blooming their rosy milk blossoms and tart green leaves. I slow my pace and soak it all in. Today, I am happy. I need to watch and listen more often.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Starting Out

I suppose for anyone that wants to start homesteading, they need to just - start. I grew up feeding off the Reader's Digest book Back to Basics and inheriting my mother's love of the land. My first homesteading effort involved a two-leafed maple tree and three carrots all grown in my bedroom. Sadly, my efforts were a failure, mostly because I didn't understand the need for a little patience and a lot of fertilizer.

From there I moved on to growing parsley outside, teaching myself to bake, and learning to play the harmonica. All this before I turned 16.

My family then moved to a wonderful, magical home with a wood stove, a Hoosier, black walnuts and apple trees. I learned the art of apple butter - divinity from heaven! And while life has thrown me a lot of moves and changes I keep trying to learn and understand what homesteading is all about and what it means to me.

And while I haven't gotten my farm acreage yet with a garden, chickens, sheep, and some cats, homesteading is taking one step at a time, learning one skill at a time and loving the journey.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...