How to Make Easy Farmer Cheese (and supporting your local farmer)

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A ex dairy farmer who then has to begin purchasing from other farmers has a small heart attack when billed.  Never mind the cost of sweet feed, alfalfa, minerals, milking implements, and boyfriends, we don’t see all that, we just hear $8 for a half a gallon of fresh, frothy, raw milk.  $6 for free roaming delicious eggs.  “Oy, I used to get that for free!” I yelp. (Of course it wasn’t free…)

Okay, so yes, for a buck fifty you can get subpar, pasteurized, feed lot cow’s milk.  Some cheap eggs from chickens that don’t move…ever.

Now, relooking at costs.  I made 3 cups of fresh farmer cheese last night for the cost of the milk.  $8.  If we consider how much 4 ounces of goat cheese or farmer cheese costs in the store (around $5) we can easily see the deal we are getting.  This constitutes the protein in a meal, so replaces meat.  Eggs make several meals and additions to recipes, making it a very economical meal, even at $6.

The key is changing one’s perspective that farm food is the same as supermarket food.  It is much higher nutritionally and much more delicious.  It provides more meals at home around the table.  And helps a farmer.  We are a dying breed.  Women farmers represent 20% of all farmers.  But with up to 5000 farmers calling it quits (or losing, like we did) we need to support local agriculture.  We just have to.  I’ll be joining the ranks of women farmers again but I cannot have goats in the city we are moving to so no milking…yet.  In the meantime, I will support a farmer.  It is well worth the extra few bucks.

Here is an easy recipe for farmer cheese.  You can use store bought milk but if you can get a half gallon of raw, please do so.

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Pour 1/2 gallon of milk into pot and heat over medium heat stirring often until just boiling.  Turn off heat.

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Pour in 1/4 cup of homemade red wine vinegar (click here for the recipe), other vinegar, or lemon juice.  Watch the curds separate from the whey.  If needed add another 1/4 cup.  The red wine vinegar makes a pretty color.

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Once separated, pour into a colander lined with good cheesecloth.  I mean it, spring for the good cheesecloth.  (Geez, I don’t even have clothes pins anymore.  I am starting my homesteading journey again from scratch!  I used a headband to secure the cheesecloth to the colander.)  Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sea salt over cheese.

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Fold sides together and hang off the side of the pot for 2-12 hours.

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When finished, remove cheesecloth while placing cheese in bowl.  From here you have a very plain tasting cheese.

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Here I added 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning.  1 teaspoon of truffle salt.  A drizzle of garlic oil.  1/4 teaspoon of pepper.  A dash of sugar.  Use hands to combine and crumble.

Other ideas would be sugar and cranberries, and orange zest.  Or minced garlic and chives.  Use your imagination!  Put in enchiladas, lasagna, in salad, on crackers topped with jam.  Homemade cheese is an easy homesteading staple!

The Music Filled Homestead

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The guitar was sitting next to the fireplace untouched.  My children can play various instruments and sing and we always had lots of music in our home.  We gave away the piano so we didn’t have to move it.  Oh, how I miss it.  We sold the violin and the mandolin.  Andy took the banjo and his guitar.  Doug gave me a guitar for my birthday a few years ago.  I wish I could say that I have Andy’s natural talent but I will forget what I learned musically pretty quickly.  Twenty years of piano and I would still need to reteach myself.  I can sing, but not as consistently as the contestants of the Voice.  But I do love music.

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This year we worked like crazy folks to rebuild.  I tend to hurry, hurry.  No time, no time!  But what harm does it do if I am ten minutes behind because I am singing loudly and strumming with chords and following a beginning guitar book?  All that does is add joy to my life!  And I’ll write about it more in the coming weeks, but my goals for 2017 are to live.  Really live.

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I will be on the search for a piano for our new house as well. The piano cares not if I am a maestro or not.  A home filled with music is a home filled with love and joy.

If you could learn any instrument, what would it be?

The Art of the Mini-Vacation

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Vacations are expensive.  They take a lot of planning, a week off of work, savings, and can be exhausting.  We have found that the best vacations are often weekends.  We call them mini-vacations.  We got our friends hooked on them too.  We find specials on hotel rooms and stay one night, maybe two somewhere new.  A dip in the pool, a soak in the hot tub, free breakfast, a comfy bed sans cats, and a hot shower is often just the ticket to reset for the week.  We like to try new restaurants, see the sights, visit museums, or walk around the city.  It doesn’t cost much and it really is fun.

If you have been reading my blog long you know Pat and Rodney via my stories.  We have traveled with them to Utah, to New Mexico, and across the front range, from Wyoming to Fort Collins, to Colorado Springs.

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Last weekend we took Pat and Rodney down to Pueblo to show them around.  We met up with my friend, Alvin, who just moved down there.  We went to dinner at my new favorite restaurant, Nachos.  A family owned place that serves up the best Mexican food I have had in a long while.  We walked the Riverwalk and oohed and ahhed at the lights.  We planned, dreamed.  Pat and I walked arm and arm singing and yelling, “Merry Christmas” to the boats that went by all alight with Santa in tow.

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The next day we took them to see our new house.  We drove around town and walked the Main street with its quaint blocks of all locally owned shops.

This week we are driving down there just for the day to accompany Rodney and Pat while they house hunt.  Wouldn’t that be something?  Our best friends moving down the way?  This is getting too fun….

Braided Rugs and the Old House

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A ninety-one year old house sits quietly empty on its large lot.  No one to creak the old wood floors or light the flames in the firebox.  There isn’t laughter in the kitchen yet, wine glasses clinking, or sizzling from the stove.  The curtains are dark and block out the sunlight and the chill fills the empty space.  The old house wishes for children running through slamming the screen door.  Chickens knocking at the back door.  Flowers growing in the flower boxes.  Singing in the shower, and in the kitchen.  The old house has its own pleasant spirit that I cannot wait to get to know.

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Long time followers and friends know that I love to decorate, to create, to inspire, to set emotions with décor and life.  I pull a color from a braided rug that would make a lovely trim color.  I need to get in there and sit quietly.  Listen to the old house.

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There are no library books on decorating called “Eclectic, Amish, Country, New Mexican Style”!

I start with a rug.  I love braided rugs.  They can be made by saving long scraps of fabric, or long 2 inch strips of old sheets.  You simply braid the pieces together.  Sew on more strips at the end.  A few stitches along the strip to keep in place.  Then start winding the strip into a circle or oval and stitch pieces to stay in place.  I found a stellar deal on Wayfair for a few beautiful rugs that I couldn’t do better myself so they will be the primary pieces of our new home.  One day I will create my own with old sheets or cotton.  It is a brilliant way to reuse old fabric.

After the New Year I’ll  bring you in to decorate with me.  Home sweet Home.  The best Christmas present we can think of!

 

Top Five Books for Winter Reading

During the summer I often only have time to read magazines between farmer’s markets and gardening, and babysitting, and the shop (and soon to be a full blown urban farm), but in the winter I have more time.  The sun goes down earlier, I am called to warm sheets quicker, tea by my side, a book (not an e-book, mind you, I prefer the loveliness of paper) in my hand, and I am whisked away to new places amongst new people for a time.  A way to stop my swimming mind from wandering from subject to worry to plan.  These are my top five books for winter reading.

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1- The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman

This book takes us to the plush apartment of an elderly, elegant woman, at once a hermit and extraordinary storyteller of her time as a courtesan.  Taking place at the cusp of World War Two, her granddaughter both listens to her grandmother’s stories and becomes a woman in a world where being half Jewish in love with a Jewish rare book seller could prove dangerous.  A lovely tale of love and luxury, of loss and simple pleasures, I enjoyed every word.

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2- If There’s Squash Bugs in Heaven, I Ain’t Staying by Stacia Spragg-Braude

I laughed throughout this book.  The author follows an older farmer around for a year and creates a memoir of the life of a Farm girl in Corrales, New Mexico, easily transporting us to her youth, introducing us to family members throughout time, then back to present at the stove stirring this or that to be preserved.  Incredible farming wisdom and homesteading tips are inevitably sought during this delightful story of a life lived simply and near the earth.

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3- The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

Mind you, fiction is not my reading of choice.  I challenged myself this year to read more fiction.  This book delivered an enticing story that jumps from past to present as a young reporter tries to find out the truth behind a maid’s mysterious death by interviewing the elder models that still inhabit the once prestigious Barbizon hotel.  Secrets unfold and kept me thoroughly entertained as it took me to sexy jazz clubs in the 1950’s, Puerto Rican singers, smoke, spices, and models trying to make it set the scene for a beautiful tale of love and second chances.

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4- Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

One I have already read but must recommend you read if you haven’t yet.  The beautiful ideas of self renewal, travel, food, love, spirit all entwined in one enticing book with gorgeous prose and colorful scenes thrills and inspires me.  Then watch the movie.  It is spectacular as well.

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5- The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

I’ll have this one finished in the next day or two.  It makes me stay up past my bedtime to read (which is really saying something as I am fast asleep by 10:01 every night!) just to capture a bit more of the Scottish hillside, hear the brogue, see the kilts, pet the lambs, and travel around with the protagonist who has left her ordinary librarian job to sell books in a large restored van at markets.  I am smitten, and oddly desiring a pint of something.

Bonus- As for magazines I am wondering if some of my fellow farmgirls may have overlooked one.  Oprah magazine is one that I will subscribe to every year.  I have plenty of farming and homemaking magazines but this makes me.  Filled with constant inspiration, encouragement, and great book ideas, I cannot stop pouring over the glossy pages of this beautiful ensemble of ideas and friendship.

What are you reading?  Book recommendations?  Happy reading!

The Homesteading Bug…or in the Blood?

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There are some that are content with flowers in a pot.  There are those who are perfectly happy turning on a switch to make the fire come to life (the gas flame is rather pretty).  A package of this food or that blended with another to make “homemade” food.  Our society has a different view of homemaking these days.  But I, well I used to think I had the homesteading bug.  A bug that I wondered would pass once we entered the city.  Would I miss canning?  It is tedious work.  Would I miss hand washing dishes and clothes lines, and the smell of firewood setting aflame while a pot of beans is set on the wood stove to percolate?

I guess you know the answer.

City life can be rather easy.  My friend cleans my apartment once a week.  I leave for work with everyone else and work very, very hard all week long.  So does Doug.  We come home and fix supper or head out to eat.  We switch on the fire.  And a movie.  We feed the cats.  I do laundry.  It is quick, even though our clothes are a bit shrunk from the dryer…or the lifestyle.

We long for chores and the cool breeze as we run to the chicken coop to let the ladies out.  We miss the sight of dozens of jewel colored jars cooling on the counters waiting for the larder (I did get several dozen things put up, but we’ll be out by next month).  I miss the sound of the dehydrator and the smell of drying tomatoes.  The sound of crackling from the first log that catches in the wood stove.  I miss the extensive gardens to water and the music blaring from my earphones as I dance and water at the same time, entertaining the neighbors.  I miss pointing out what we grew on the plate (sometimes all of it).  I miss falling into bed exhausted with a huge smile of completion on my face.  Planning the winter rests of learning to knit and weave and spin and the books I’ll catch up on.  Only to be planning the next year’s gardens and pouring over seed catalogues instead.

We wondered if we would get over the homesteading bug when set into a life of a bit more ease.  But, no, it turns out, it was homesteading blood.  Not a bug.  We are a few of those folks that could go back to 1890 with ease.  Playing the fiddle or working as we please.  To step out of normal society is a plus.  Yes, on a mini-farm and homestead you will find us.

I look forward to donning my apron again.  The one that swaddled new born goats and chicks.  The one my granddaughter can hide under.  To wipe my hands on after chopping a zillion vegetables or to wipe my brow after crawling on my hands and knees to plant tiny seeds that will become life and infuse our life with…life.

Some of us just have homesteading in our blood.

The Delicious and Versatile Homemade Crouton

I try to bake bread each week.  The first few days the bread is delicious and soft.  The next few days it needs to be toasted.  The next few days we forget about it.  Then I make croutons!  Croutons are a great way to preserve stale bread and can be made with store bought bread as well.

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Simply cut into half inch pieces and place on cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Use a large spoon and stir while flipping the pieces over (the best you can, don’t do every single piece, you’ll go crazy) and drizzle with a little more oil and salt and pepper.

For these I used a little sage and onion infused olive oil from Drizzle and Dip in Southlands along with good olive oil.  Rye bread was made into croutons this week and it goes very well with strong flavors like garlic, sage, and onion.  You can also add minced herbs if you wish.

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Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.  Shake the pan after 10 minutes.  Then again when it comes out of the oven.  Let cool on pan completely.  Store in a paper bag.  These are delicious on salad, in soup, or as a snack.  These crispy, salty, savory croutons taste great with a little holiday red wine.  Add a few slices of good cheese and you have fast hors d’oeuvres.

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Here is a link to one of my bread recipes. Click here

Ten Yule Gifts To Give Yourself

The Yule-tide season oughtn’t be just about giving gifts to others.  Why, we might want to be a bit self indulgent.  Lord, I think we have all spent enough time learning from society that it isn’t about us, and that we should just give, give, give to others.  I don’t know about you, but I think I deserve a little treat now and then.  I work hard, love hard, and I should treat myself as I would treat a small child in my home.  With comforts and love abound.  Here are just a few ideas to make the holidays at home sweet.

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#1 If you have a queen sized bed, splurge on king sized sheets.  Even better, get those glorious plush, micro-fleece sheets.  Soft, comforting, and enough leeway to share with your partner.  Curled up under warm sheets pulled to your chin (a treat when you are as tall as I am) and still have your feet covered is indeed heaven.

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#2 The Christmas tree is magical.  Treat it as such.  Twinkly lights, memories in ornament form, the smell of pine if it is a real tree, and the tall evergreen monument in the living room for but a month is a joy to have.  Pull up a rocking chair and opt to sit in it a few minutes with the lights on morning and evening.  A cup of coffee or tea, a magazine or book.  Perhaps a little music.  Magic.

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#3 Treat yourself to smoothies whipped up with fresh vegetables and fruits in the morning and a glass of fresh pressed juice before dinner.  You will infuse your body with a great number of nutrients and fiber and perhaps won’t eat so much of the not-so-great foods.  Eat well.

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#4 Use a vaporizer that has a little well for essential oils.  Lavender reminds me of my favorite places in New Mexico and lulls me to quiet sleep.  Pine invigorates and smells of holidays and forests.  Find your scent (and your moisture).

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#5 Stretch gently in the morning.  Or vigorously.  Yoga and meditation is beautiful.  Prayers said while lighting candles is healing.  Remembering our loved ones is essential.  For all those passed and those that are here helping us along, be grateful.

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# 6 Add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to coffee before brewing.  Add a cinnamon stick to a cup of hot tea.  (It stabilizes blood sugar tastes great.)

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# 7 Write love letters to those near to you.  Then write a love letter to yourself.  I dare you.  You will feel awkward and giddy the entire time you write your missive to yourself.

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#8 Say no.  Stay in.  Watch silly Christmas shows and movies.  Drink hot cider and eat popcorn and a few cookies.  Snuggle on the couch.  Look at the stars for a moment before darting back into the warm house.  Start a fire.  (That has several meanings.)

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#9 Start planning your year to come.  Dream.  For dreams cannot possibly come true if we don’t dream and plan them first.

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#10 Love you.  Merry Christmas to you.  All the magic in the world is at your fingertips.  you can make anything occur.  You are made perfect, look perfect, are perfect.  Just love you.

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Cheers, Friends.  Time to light the Christmas tree and candles.  The sun is sloping towards the west.  I hope you are enjoying your season so far.

 

Simple Christmas Decor

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Decorating for the season is one of the great delights of the year for me.  I adore the fresh greenery and candlelight, the crooked tree (and when you think you have enough lights on the tree, add one more strand), the star alight, the stockings waiting for Santa.

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When the children were little our house looked like North Pole south.  Dollar store trinkets and cutouts, lights, and vintage decorations took over the house and filled the space with cheer and magic.  Visitors were often surprised then enchanted by the decor.  We love holidays in our home.

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As the children grew up and moved out and the dollar store trinkets broke, cutouts tore, things faded, my decorating took on a fresher take.  Strings of fairy lights still capture my adoration (and I refuse to get the LED lights…I will clean out Walmart’s shelves of twinkly lights if I must!) and oil lamps are humble and sweet.

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Places to sit that are cozy and private.  Vintage and children-made decorations from over the years dazzle and cause my heart to swell as I admire funky Santas and photos in homemade frames.  A life of raising children brought forth each season.

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The newest generation is mesmerized by her first viewing of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.  Dinner is served on melamine Rudolph plates from Pottery Barn Kids.  She asked Santa for a dollhouse.  The magic continues.  The warmth of the season resonates in our home.

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Decorate simply.  A beautiful tree.  Branches of greens gathered where we got our tree decorate each space.  Light a candle.

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Enjoy the season, Friends.  Even if you had loss this year.  Even if you have sadness.  Let the beautiful joy of the season, the charity, the lights, the smiles, the music, the hope sweep over you and let you rest easy in front of a fire with a good book and a cup of tea next to a well lit Christmas tree.