Creating a Life to Help You Really Live

There is a peacefulness here in the mornings. The sun shines hopeful light over the mountain sides and the breezes are light. The changes in season are obvious and there is a certain beauty to the washed out pallor of late autumn. During this season, I feel very thankful for everything in my life. Truly, honestly, thankful. For my husband, my children, grandchildren, friends, animals, nature, health, comfort, and this lovely piece of land where the hearth fires burn. We purposely build a life that feeds us, inspires us, and fuels us. A homesteading life.

A homesteading life looks different in different situations with correlating bonds. We have chosen that I be a housewife. I make a little off of book royalties, and herbs, and this and that, but my place is in creating a home. We used to think that homesteading required two people at home. But we learned the hard way that to homestead in the state we were born in, one of us had to get a full time job. Many farmers and homesteaders do. In many cases, both parties work outside the homestead.

Having and pursuing a trade is a wonderful way to work towards self sufficiency. (A note on self sufficiency: it truly takes a community to sustain, but we will use the phrase to denote taking care of ourselves and others to our full ability.) If you can do something well, and it is a needed skill, then you can often support, or help support, your family with it. It is important that we begin to encourage as many folks to go to trade schools as college. The next generation will be stronger for it.

How does one get started homesteading? There are a few gals at my husband’s work that want to come down to our farm and learn to make cheese. I will be happy to teach them. It won’t be long before they begin to bake bread. Or make their own candles. Pretty soon, they have goats and a small dairy. Homesteading grows. You see something you would like to do yourself; sewing, crocheting, gardening, baking, cheese making, soap making, candle making, wood working, raising farm animals, wine making, herbalism, and decide to learn how to do it. You incorporate that into your life. Look at your grocery list, what can you learn to make? Do you need to buy all of the packaged boxes of junk or can you learn to make granola bars, cookies, and bread? Can you make cream of celery soup? Can you make gravy? Spaghetti sauce? Can you grow the tomatoes for it? Oh, then you are really going. Pretty soon you have a full out farmstead.

My granddaughters, Ayla and Maryjane, wearing the dresses I made them.

The peace of mind and pride is profound in this lifestyle. Do it yourself. Even if it isn’t perfect, you did it! The peace of mind of knowing you can heat your house if the power goes out. Feed your family for awhile if there is a natural disaster. Take care of yourself if an economical collapse occurs. There is peace of mind in knowing what you eat and what you drink were grown by you, prepared by you, and there are no crazy chemicals in your cupboard. Your cleaning products are truly clean, your muscles toned from doing everything by hand, your heart light at watching the fruit of your labors expand. This lifestyle is filled with planning, hard work, and life and death, but it is truly living. Being in the midst of it all. Purposely creating a good life filled with sustenance. A good life that feeds you, inspires you, and fuels you. A homesteading life. Start today. What would you like to learn?

Cheesemaking (How to Homestead Day 5)

It only takes one moment to change and swirl views and to clarify answers.  One moment.  I have been near out of my mind trying to make a decision over the last nine months or so.  Should I go back to school?  For what?  Do I want a career?  School is upwards of (an additional from last time) fifty grand.  Should I focus on paying off debt instead?  Am I meant to be a teacher, anthropologist, or chef?  A conversation between Emily, Reed, Doug and I and we were pricing out land.  Even though it turns out we will have to wait another one to three years to move forward with that idea, it snapped me into the present.  My confusion should have been the key that I was not on the right path pursuing school.  My career is homesteading.

You can save a lot of money by homesteading, and you can make money if you choose as well, making it a viable career, particularly for a housewife.  There is great serenity to be found slowly stirring a pot of curdling milk and turning it into sharp cheddar.  Or sitting before a fire while crocheting a blanket.  Carefully pulling tiny weeds among the lettuces.  Gathering eggs and throwing scratch.  Hanging clothes on the line.  Piecing a quilt.  The smell of baking bread filling the house.  Serving delicious farmstead fresh food to your family and loved ones.  Yes, this is the life for me and mine.

If you are like me and are homesteading in a city that does not allow goats, then you will need to find a milk share.  I had a choice between goat milk and cow’s milk.  Goat’s milk contains identical enzymes to ours so is easier to digest.  It tastes delicious to us, but some folks prefer the super creamy cow’s milk.  You can use pasteurized milk (not ultra-pasteurized) for making cheese, but I am a raw milk gal myself.  Why kill all the nutrients?  That seems silly.

For soft cheeses, you will need nothing more than a pot, a thermometer, and cheesecloth.  Soft cheese is rather forgiving and you can use lemon juice or specific enzymes for making soft white cheese, like chevre.  (You can get these at Cheesemaking.com)

Simply heat a gallon of goat’s milk on the stove slowly until it reaches 86 degrees.  Pour in a packet of enzymes for chevre.  Let sit for 2 minutes.  Stir well and cover for 12 hours.  (I forgot to take a picture.  I also forgot after 12 hours and it ended up sitting for 24 hours!)

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Strain through a cheesecloth, reserving whey.  Whey is highly nutritious.  I gave some to my old cats and my dog.  I reserved some for the cheese to make it the consistency I want.  And some can be saved for bread making as well.  I use a strainer and clothes line clips to secure.  Let sit for 4-8 hours.  (Now, I had to go to bed two hours later so I put the whole thing in the fridge so it ended up sitting for 11 hours.  See!  Very forgiving.)

I only had 1/2 a gallon of milk this time so I used 1/2 packet of enzymes.  I will add lots of fresh herbs from the garden to this and make a lovely cheese for homemade pizza tonight.

If you make a lot more than you need you can roll a small log into plastic wrap, then foil, then pile the logs into a gallon bag and freeze.

To go further, purchase a cheese press, mesophilic and thermophilic starters along with rennet (vegetable or animal), and a great book.  That will get you started.  Cheese making is not as hard as it sounds and you may find yourself coming up with all sorts of delicious creations to serve with a glass of homemade wine!

Here are just a few of my posts with exact instructions.  Easy Homemade Goat Cheese and How to Make Hard Cheese 

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 Little Dairy (a homesteader’s necessity!)

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Every homestead would benefit from a goat.  These dog-sized animals come with mega personality and fun while giving delicious milk for the homestead dairy cupboard along with chocolate milk, cheese, yogurt, cream cheese, and ice cream!  Goats don’t cost much more than a dog does and the investment is paid back in crazy antics (like jumping 360’s off of a pile of tires), snuggles, and food.

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Goats are great with kids and teach them about farming.  There are many cities and counties that allow goats now.  There are many types of goats to choose from ranging from Nigerian Dwarves to Saanens.  Dwarves give one to two quarts a day of rich milk while Saanens and Nubians can give one to two gallons a day!  Not too shabby.

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I love cows but they are hard to sneak into the city and they eat a lot.  Our Isabelle gives more than a gallon a day.  It is illegal to sell raw, nutrient rich, frothy, delicious milk.  However, a share is a good way to help other families receive a bit of milk for themselves. Our shareholders pay a small buy-in fee and a weekly boarding fee which entitles them to a set amount of milk.  So, Isabelle essentially belongs to four families!

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Our household still has plenty for cooking, drinking, and putting into vast amounts of coffee before farm chores.  I also make two pounds of cheese a week.  Today I will make Manchego aged in truffle oil.  I expected to have Elsa in milk too (she is doing great at her new home, by the way) so I was going to use Elsa’s milk for our needs and cheesemaking and Isabelle could supply shares.  But our plans never work out quite like we think!  Isabelle is still giving us all we need and lots of kisses as bonus.

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Goats are one of the only things that pay for themselves on this farm!  They do better in pairs.  Isabelle is a little tired of being followed around by her two month old sheep brothers, adorable as they are.  We traded Isabelle’s doeling for a doeling from Poppy, our friend Jenet’s goat, who is due in a few weeks.  We are hoping for a girl!  Then a little two day old Nubian will join our humble homestead.  If not, then we will be on the lookout for a companion for Isabelle and future milker.

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The other side of having a delightful goat that gives sustenance to a farm is the time involved.  Every day, rain or shine, or blizzard, Isabelle is milked at 8:00 in the morning and 8:00 in the evening.  Every.  Single.  Day.  This halts one’s spur-of-the-moment plans, but it is worth it.

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This year, I have been cutting the rounds of cheese in half so that I have one pound wheels.  One to keep, one to give fine folks that donate to our farm.  I blended white wax with red wax and found it created a lovely pink patina to cover my cheeses with.  I love it.  My favorite color. I think it will be my new thing.

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I simply cannot imagine a homestead without a goat.  A homestead necessity!

How to Make Hard Cheese (step by step and sooo worth it!)

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My first batch of cheese this year was started with Miss Isabelle’s delicious, frothy, rich milk.  I am going to show you how to make a variation of Guido’s Cheese from the book “Home Cheese Making” by Rikki Carroll.  I chose this one to demonstrate because it is forgiving and versatile, a perfect first hard cheese.  I gleefully fed my friends it last summer along with red wine and homemade pickles.  It is truly delightful to make your own cheese.  All winter, after I had run out I begrudgingly bought cheese.  Oh, the horror! (expensive stuff) This year I will produce enough to put up for winter and include it in our milk share from our farm so others can try it too.

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First put 1/2 teaspoon of rennet in a 1/2 cup of un-chlorinated water and set aside.

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Pour 16 cups of milk (2 gallons of cow’s, goat’s, raw, or store-bought) into a large pot and bring temperature to 90 degrees over medium heat, stirring often.

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Add one package of Thermophilic starter (I get mine from Buckley’s Homestead Supply in Colorado Springs or Dry Dock Brewing in Aurora or you can order online.) and stir well. Put lid on and let sit for 25-30 minutes.

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Stir in diluted rennet and let sit for another 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes cut the curds in a checkerboard pattern with a long knife.  It is not an exact science, just slice through the yogurt-like mass every inch or so in one direction, then in the other direction, then kind of sideways.

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Now here comes the part about patience and the reason I didn’t think I would enjoy cheese making, but I do love it and I do love cheese, so this here is a labor of love (for cheese).  Stirring near constantly we have to finagle the stove so that we can raise the temperature one degree every minute for thirty minutes.  Most other cheeses we have to do this in a sink of water and add copious amounts of hot water to achieve this effect, but this one allows us to use the stove and cheat a little.

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Now I am at 120 degrees.

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I prepared a mold with cheesecloth and secured it with clothes pins.

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I place a strainer over another pot (to catch the whey) and pour the cheese into the strainer.

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Pack the cheese into the mold.

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Fold over the top of the cheesecloth and place a 3-4 pound weight on top.  If you are using a cheese press this can just be three inches of water in an empty milk carton hanging from the end of the handle.  You may as well get a cheese press, this activity is rather addicting!  You could use a cantaloupe or something, I suppose, as the weight.  The mold just needs to be a cylinder with holes in it.

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Now, we unwrap the cheese after fifteen minutes or so, turn it over, rewrap, and reset the weight.  The book tells us to do this several times at the beginning then a few more times over 4-6 hours.  The first time I made this I had just gotten the thing wrapped when I heard I needed to be at my son’s wedding three hours earlier than I thought.  So, left it and came back, turned it a few times, it was fine.  This time I had to go to Elizabeth to drop the baby off to her daddy so the cheese got turned three times over 4 hours.  It wasn’t as compact and sharp looking as store cheese, but it would do.  It was pretty tall so I actually cut it in half.  We’ll find out in a few weeks if that was alright to do.  After the four to six hours let sit under the weight for 24 hours.

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Make a brine using one pound of sea salt to one gallon of near boiling water.  Let cool down.  Maybe plan ahead and make it the night before.  I ought to do this.

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Place cheese in brine and turn every so often for 24 hours.

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Place on paper towels and keep in cool, dry place (like the cheese fridge) for 3 weeks, turning a few times a day at first (if you remember!) and then once a day or so after.  After two days you could soak the cheese in red wine for 24 hours then continue the drying process.  After three weeks, it is ready.  Just in time to celebrate summer!