Friday, July 31, 2009

Monkey Mind

So, to keep the monkey somewhat under control, I'm going to create a "Monkey Mind" post once a week... a little recap or list of sorts. Just a way to sum up the bigger thoughts and activities occupying my mind each week. Maybe you'll be thinking of some of the same things, maybe you'll have ideas of your own or ideas for me. We'll see how this goes. Since the Independence Days Challenge keeps me pretty regular about posting at the beginning of the week, I'll try for Fridays for Monkey Mind to use as a bit of a recap but also a spring-board for the weekend. Let me know if you decide to do your own Monkey Mind list, please leave me a comment or lead us over to your post.

So, here we go...

Monkey Mind
Next to my reading chair:

• I'm really enjoying everything written by Laurie R. King. I've had my nose pretty much constantly in one of her books for the last several weeks. I have become a complete fool for the Mary Russell series and enjoy the Kate Martinelli series almost as much. I've been alternating between the two series and am coming to the end of the King pile. Boo. This week I read "The Game," "With Child," "Locked Rooms," and I'm in the midst of "Night Work." Sooooo good!

• Michael gave me "the Encyclopedia of Country Living" for my birthday and I'm itching to dive in. I plan on reading the first chapter tomorrow morning over coffee.

• I cracked open "Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health" last night. I'm wanting to read up on ways to harvest and use the plants and herbs we grow most efficiently. We have so many things growing in our garden that can be brewed into soothing and medicinal teas, tinctures and supplements. I'm not wanting to waste a bit of that goodness!

• And on a connected note, this morning's reading was the beginning of "Gaia's Garden" an interesting and inspiring book on permaculture, to help us utilize and vitilize our little quarter acre for growing food, conserving energy, welcoming wild-life and restoring a little positive environment. I'm really excited about what this books holds in store!

In the Garden:

• I'm feeling the need to get a better handle on what's going on and growing in the garden. We've had some crop failures with the wet and cold Spring, but some things have fared well, and others are perking up. I need to spend some time on weeding! Cutting back the raspberry canes, and drying the raspberry leaves for tea and medicinals, pinching off suckers and spotted leaves on the tomatoes, weeding, planting some fall crops, weeding, stacking the grass cutting compost ...did I say weeding?

• Wouldn't it be cool to build an outdoor Cob Oven or fireplace...for solstice gatherings, outdoor cooking and cozy music making. I would love that!

Keeping my Eye Out:

• for canning jars and bottles for preserving food.

• for interesting garden statuary that we BOTH like!

• for picnic/garden furniture...benches, tables, etc.

• good sources of local meat, eggs and milk. Trying to cut down my weekly wandering for sustainable food.

On the Baby Front:

• I need to get a handle on the vaccination issue. It is so daunting and huge I have been trying to think of it from a place of education and empowerment...not a place of fear. But, GOSH! There is so much scary stuff out there! So, since we may not have all of the choices of biological parents and since this is too big for a single approach. I'm going to chip away at the puzzle, one shot and one disease at a time. Beginning with the Hep B shot they will likely try to give the Goob on the very first day!!! I've got my hands on "The Vaccine Book" by Robert Sears, "Natural Baby and Childcare" by Lauren Feder has a great section on vaccinations, and the National Vaccine Information Center and the CDC also have lots of information. Whooh! Alot to absorb. But, we need to make the best decisions possible for this new little life, when he/she comes.

• Need to finish up the little green scrap baby jacket I'm making. I keep running into obstacles, like wounded finger, not enough yarn, etc. But, one way or another I've got the get that done!

• Need to get leg extensions for the co-sleeper

• Need to line up cat-care options now that we're losing our amazing cat sitter.

Other Monkey Miscellany:

• I really need to find the perfect pattern and whip up a few summer-weight nightgowns. My preferred summer sleeping attire. I've got lots of great bits of fabric lined up. Maybe this?

• Gotta finish sorting through and getting rid of too many clothes that I don't wear! Cut down on the chaos in the bedroom.

• Thoughts on curtains for the Dining Room and bedroom. Finish the kitchen/laundryoom curtains!

• Organize the recipe, baby-care, house and knitting binders.

Okay, now! That seems to be the big stuff. What is on your monkey mind?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Making yogurt and a little of the harvest

I've now got my yogurt making routine pretty well down. And it's such a good feeling to be making this myself. It sure cuts down on the plastic to be recycled! And since I've been able to find grass-fed, low-heat pasteurized, un-homogenized milk from Sky Top Farm, we've got a healthier, tastier yogurt! I'm diggin' the french canning jars I got. They work really well for making cordials as well as making yogurt.

I'm using a starter "bulgarian" I found at the New England Cheesemaking site. And I have a very low-tech process.

I heat 1/2 gallon of milk in a stainless steel double boiler to 185F while stirring. Meanwhile, I've filled a small six-pack cooler with hot water – about 120F, and close the lid. I've also sterilized my jars by pouring boiling water in them to the top (and in the lids as well) When the milk is at 185F, I remove it from the heat and cool in an ice-water bath in the sink until at just 120F. That's when I add either the dry starter or approx. 1/2 cup of yogurt from the last batch. I use an old-fashioned egg beater to make sure the milk and starter are well blended. Then I pour the boiling water out of my clean jars, pour in the yogurt, close the jars, place in the cooler, checking that the water is still between 110F and 120F and only comes up to just below the lids. I close the cooler, wrap in a towel and let it sit for about 7-8 hours. The yogurt is not as thick as store-bought but very tasty.

We like our yogurt thicker so I place the jars in the fridge over night, to stop the culturing process. Then I pour the yogurt into a butter muslin lined strainer placed in a pitcher to catch the whey. I fold the butter muslin over and cover with a plate, weight with a jar and place in the fridge. A few hours makes a greek-style yogurt and a day makes a rich creamy yogurt cheese. delish! my favorite is throwing some raspberries fresh from the garden in the thick yogurt and drizzle with a little local honey. A scrumptious snack!

And as for this week's IDC challenge:
Plant Something:
Planted some raspberry and borage transplants

Harvest Something:
Picked the last of the peas and started prepping the bed for cabbage and mezuna, picked raspberries, and lots of beans. Harvested the last of the garlic.

Preserve Something:
Froze raspberries and green beans. Bottled another batch of raspberry cordial. Braided the first half the garlic crop for storage. Hung the second half the crop for storage.

Waste Not:
Michael brought another bag of clothes for donation. Whipped up a peach/blueberry cobbler with some peaches that had started going over to the dark side.

Want Not:
Picked up three chickens from the local farm (meat CSA) for our freezer. Had one today. Delish!

Build Community Food Systems:
Bought eggs, greens and chickens from the local farm. Talked with a friend about "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle".

Eat the Food:
Cobblers, salads, chocolate chip zucchini bread, turnip green fritatta, garlic green beans

And a few gratuitous shots of the garden...

A lacy dill flower

A an echinacea bloom

Stay cool!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cordially yours

We're working on a new craft around here. Its a way to save some fruit in a form that we'll enjoy. We're not really big jam eaters, so I haven't felt the need to throw myself into the jam-making arena just yet. (But, I can tell it's in the wind and once I figure out the method that is most "whole", least processed and sugar-sweetened, I'll be there.) For now, we're jumping into the world of cordials, alcoholic cordials to begin, and maybe some non-alcoholic cordials to follow. In particular I'm inspired by our prolific raspberry bushes and this website. So far the going is easy. We've bottled our first batch of Raspberry cordial, have another batch in it's first sitting phase with the whole fruit still in. We've also started a small batch of cranberry cordial with some frozen organic cranberries we had hanging around.

Perhaps, someday we'll get into brewing the alcohol ourselves. For now we're purchasing the brandy and or vodka that goes into these recipes. Otherwise its fruit (home-grown mostly) and local honey. Considering all the anti-oxidants, and health benefits packed into our little berries, and the goodness, immunity boosting, allergy-aiding of our local honey...well we're doing this for our health. A little sip of "Mama's medicine" on a cold night could just do the trick to keep off the chill! At least that's what we're telling ourselves.

And the first small sampling of the filtered, un-aged first batch of raspberry was delicious; fruity with a little extra glow. Yum! Now we'll try to wait patiently and officially open the first bottle for Michael's birthday in mid-September. Maybe there'll be a little nip in the air!

Meanwhile, now that we've had some sun...let me say it the past week, the garden is really beginning to show some summer spirit. The bush beans have taken off and we should be into daily harvesting very soon. The pole beans and cucumbers are close behind. I'm also happy to report some signs of life in our second planting of all the root crops (the first lot were decimated by cutworms or some other evil) and the tomatoes, surviving eggplant and pepper plants are beginning to perk up. Sadly our entire crop of basil looks to be lost. I'll start a flat this week to see if I can get any in the ground.

And an Independence Days Challenge update.

Harvest Something:
Raspberries, peas, lettuce and a few bush beans. Also our first two heads of garlic...we'll leave the rest a little longer.

Preserve Something:

Froze raspberries made two batches of raspberry and one batch of cranberry cordial.

Waste Not:
Used yogurt and cheese whey for pancakes. Michael found an over-the-toilet cabinet on Freecycle and refurbished it for our upstairs bathroom, freeing up a small (trash-picked) cabinet in the upstairs hall for front porch storage, which moved the mission-style low bookcase (also trash-picked) to a place of honor in the living room.

Want Not:
Lots of lists

Build Community Food Systems:

Bought eggs, meat and greens from the local farm. Talked with a friend about seed-saving.

Eat the Food:
raspberry-rhubarb cobbler, rasp-blueberry cobbler and blueberry crisp. so good! Fresh salads. Sourdough pancakes (made with whey from cheese and yogurt making) Home-made yogurt with fresh berries and a drizzle of local honey. Local grass-fed steaks on the grill served over a bed of wilted home-grown greens. Mizuna, garlic and cheese fritatta.

Hope your summer is filled with lightening bugs, light and laughter!