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Saturday, 13 September 2014

Harvest and Farewell

The garden is great this year in spite of the drought and neglect it has suffered.

Our overgrown cucumbers get fed to the chickens and are one of their favorite treats.

 David loves to play in the garden and is particularly fond of the little frogs that live in the water barrels.

 Beans are so easy to grow! We made three teepees of bamboo and planted beans at the bottom of each pole. I am particularly fond of a recipe shared with me by my friend Judy, for szechuan beans. Deep fry beans for 4 minutes, layer in a dish with minced raw garlic, crushed red pepper, and soy sauce. So good!

 Our darling Silky mama has hatched her chicks! She is doing a wonderful job with her babies and David loves to handle them and "put them back with their mommy" when he is done holding them.

 peep peep

 I have been harvesting like mad and canning pickles, tomatoes, jam, juice, and applesauce. I harvested part of this year's lavender crop which makes me think of my Aunt Peggy who grows lavender in her garden down in Georgia.

 We also had the pleasure of sailing a few times this summer.  When I first moved to this island I was really interested in sailing and having a boat, an idea that was shuffled aside in favor of having pets and a garden.

I had forgotten what it feels like to sail.

 On the crafting front I am getting excited about quilting now that the weather is starting to cool and the smell of Autumn is in the air. I finally used up my fabric scraps and stuffed them into a pillow.

Forgive my shoddy portraits, I had to twist someone's arm!
 It is heavier than a pillow stuffed with polyester or feathers but it is super comfy, and I got to revisit fabrics from almost all of the quilts I've made. A friend of mine said that her grandmother had an ottoman stuffed with fabric scraps, and occasionally she would open it up and rummage for scraps for sewing projects.

 Would that we could eat like this year round. The garden is full of ripe peppers and tomatoes, the chickens are laying, the goats are giving milk, the apples are starting to fall, and the grapes are incredible. In January I am going to be very grateful for a can of tomatoes and a jar of homemade grape jelly.

Because it is starting to be too cold for David to swim in the ocean, we lit the old pasteurization vat hot tub to warm it up enough for David to keep learning to swim.

The tourists are mostly gone and tonight our community is gathering to honor and celebrate the life of one of our brave sisters who has ended her battle with cancer. Just last spring I was blogging about how great it was to sing with her and showing pictures of the love blanket we made. Her gift of friendship lives on in my heart and I am going to do my best tonight to sing some of the songs we sang together, without crying.

Love you Constanze.

Thank you for visiting my blog and please come back for more. I have more time to post with the days growing shorter. 

May joy be with you all...

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Cheesemaking 101

My mind was officially blown wide open at last weekend's cheese making workshop. I learned that making a round of delicious homemade cheese is just as easy as making a loaf of homemade bread!

We learned how to make three styles of cheeses. The first and easiest is straining dairy products through a cheesecloth to produce soft cheeses like chevre, labane, and cream cheese. The second method is the one I was familiar with which is making acid cheeses like paneer, using vinegar or lemon juice to curdle milk.

Making delicious, soft and spreadable cheese from yogurt. The yogurt is salted, wrapped in cheesecloth, and left to drain in a fridge overnight. The next day it is heavenly cheese.

Curds and whey that are on their way to becoming a pressed round of cheese.
The third and most exciting method was rennet cheese. Basically this entailed culturing milk at body temperature (with either kefir or the juice from quality yoghurt) and then adding rennet, cutting the cheese curds, and forming a pressed cheese round. YUM.

Fresh, raw milk is the best milk to use. Regular pasteurized and processed milk from the supermarket will not do for making most cheeses, because the aging process for cheese relies on the enzymes and natural environment present in milk in its natural state.

This round of cheese can be aged into brie or camembert, inoculated with bread mould into blue cheese, brined into feta, fermented and stretched into mozzarella, and more. The basic recipe is the same.
Many of my thoughts about cheese and whey were disproved by David at the workshop. I understood that "whey" was the by product of an acid cheese like paneer, but in actuality true whey is something else. The by product of an acid cheese has little nutritive value left, while whey made from rennet cheeses is highly nutritious and can be further separated into MORE cheeses, like ricotta!

Squeaky cheese curds! All we did was cook the curds instead of pressing them into a round.
Our cheese teacher was growing mold for making blue cheese.

An example of an aged round of cheese.
Rennet, the ingredient used to make milk separate into curds and whey, is a controversial substance because it is essentially made up of the fourth stomach of a milk-fed calf, lamb, or other ruminating animal. It works the best, but some alternative curdling agents were discussed, including cardoon flower petals. WHO KNEW??


Our lovely workshop teacher, David! Here he is with his bushy moustache, stretching the mozzarella. He was an amazing teacher and really knew his stuff.

His website is full of recipes and more information

Thanks for reading.
 I look forward to posting more as the days grow longer and I have more time for quilting and crafting.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Crafting and Blackberry Picking

I am enjoying a coffee as I write this, with a couple inches of foam on top. The foam is created simply by the pressure of milking as I squirt it into the milk jar! Thanks to my sweet goaty goats, I get to have a cappuccino.

 We've been picking big ripe blackberries every day. The wild Himalayan variety is the tastiest. The plants are totally invasive but I am thankful for finding them along the roadside! One of the reasons I got goats in the first place was to eradicate blackberry vines from our yard. The goats have gone above and beyond the call of duty...

 Our mouths were purple from eating so many black and juicy berries.

Picking fresh food is more work but also more interesting than shopping at a grocery store.

 The chicks we got a while ago from the poultry swap are almost at point of lay. I picked out six chicks and ended up with only two roosters. Not bad.

I have been working on a few little projects, including the back to my Piano Keys quilt. I am going to embroider the full word "forgiveness" (from a song by Don Henley) but I am loving the active quality of the verb 'forgive'. Along with gratitude I feel like forgiveness is an important part of being happy and at peace, with ourselves and with other people.

I have been searching for the perfect sock monkey socks to make a monkey for my little guy. In the meantime I've been knitting up a pair of socks in an imitation of the common grey wool sock with a red stripe. There are a few variations but I haven't found any with a red heel, which is the key to making the sock monkey's mouth. Obviously I'm not going to cut up the socks I'm making but it is fun to make a homemade version of something that is mass produced.

 It is finally mercifully raining and cloudy.
Enjoy this day!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Summer Time, Time, Time

This last month has been full of life. I have been busy in the garden, trying to keep everything watered during this drought we are having, and eating fresh food everyday.


We are overrun with fruits and vegetables and this week more than once I have been so full of fresh figs, strawberries, kiwis, and golden plums that I haven't even bothered to make dinner. 

The goats and David and I spent a week on another farm taking care of some other animals. They had a little baby kitten who was so sweet! I might have to adopt a kitten for David. He was carrying her around like a ragdoll.

Or... maybe that was me.

I have been baking cinnamon rolls and bread for the farmer's market, and also making lots of spanakopita with greens out of the garden, sometimes with 100% kale. They are so good and a great way to get my kid to eat greens. They are also great with homemade goat cheese. I am excited for a cheese making workshop this weekend where we will make some more complex cheeses! I will be sure to take photos.

All of this hot, sunny weather has been great for swimming. David has always been strong in the water and I hope he will be able to swim by the end of the summer.

Thanks for reading, have a great day.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Green Living

Tonight I had a stir fry with some brown rice noodles. I enjoyed the first crop of pole beans, snap peas, a huge head of broccoli, a succulent zucchini, newly cured garlic, some beet greens, and little balls of fresh green coriander.

I have been busy watering the huge garden, house painting, and accumulating a beautiful fabric stash for this winter's sewing projects, thanks to my mom, some thrifting, and two nice bloggers out there that gifted me with fabric this year.
This red currant bush produces every year. The berries taste slightly insipid but when sweetened they make yummy jam. Also jammed this summer was black currant and gooseberry. I didn't have enough strawberries and raspberries left over from fresh eating for jam this year.

By the end of this season I should have enough photos to do a

Canning and Homemade Jam Tutorial.
In short: follow the recipe and instructions in the box of Pectin. You can buy pectin at the store in the form of liquid or crystals. Do not skimp on the sugar if you want your jam to firm up enough to spread. Making jam is like making gooey candy.

*I have tried making homemade natural pectin by boiling down green apples. It did not set properly but I may try again, with more sugar.. Homemade pectin can be made in the fall and canned for the following year.

The only tricky part about canning is that multiple burners must be going to heat up the jars and lids (to sterilize) and to make sure the jam is also hot when it goes into the jars. This is why canning with a wood stove is so great, because everything can be on the stove ready to go.

I tell ya its like I have five extra kids back there.

Nemo inexpicably had the runs and I gave her some molasses with baking soda to calm her tummy.

Ken's horn injury is slowly healing. She still has to take it easy.

Firefly is such a star. She gives milk all the time!
 She is related to the King goats of Lake Hill Farm.

Mom can I have a snack PLEEEASE?

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A Bit of Sewing

Here are a few quick shots of a couple of some of the reversible shoulder bags that I've been making for the Farmer's Market.

They are comfy and slouchy and easy to flip inside out.

They were super quick and easy to make. Mostly I copied a cloth bag that my mom gave me for Christmas years ago, but I also looked at a few tutorials out there before drafting a pattern. I really enjoyed making these.

I'd like to make some specialized tags for them. People love to buy souvenirs from our island.

We named our new silkie "laying hen" Goldie Hawn. Only, just today, I got home this afternoon and my son said, "Goldie Hawn was crowing this day!"

Oh! Great!

Just what I need! Another rooster!

Apparently, hens sometimes crow. I would find it hard to believe that Goldie is actually a male but we haven't found any tiny eggs yet (she was supposedly laying) and David's dad confirmed that she/he was exhibiting cockerel behavior! Damn.

Thankfully I believe that more hens are coming along. The little chicks have integrated with the flock and everybody is getting along. The chicks stick together, though, and this morning they were all huddling together, nestled in a patch of sandy dirt. So cute.

Finally we also have a run for the big birds so that they have to stay out of the garden and they can't come and poop by our front door (they like to huddle there when it rains)

I am completely blissed out by this new Ovation guitar that I got for my birthday. It is the nicest instrument I have ever called my own, the sweet thing practically plays itself. All over the island, foxgloves are blooming and the garden is starting to give us sweet peas, cucumbers, new potatoes, raspberries, and more salad than I can eat and give away. I am feeling blessed and grateful.

Thanks for reading.


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