Monday, November 29, 2010

Bah! Humbug!

Not really..... this is a White Elephant gift for a lab party that Prion will be going to.
I tried a few times to make him look angry, but it ended up turning out funny looking instead. Vet2Be said that I'm just too happy most of the time to make something look grouchy. Thanks Vet2Be, I'll take that label any day!
The patterns were free at KnitPicks, one of my favorite knitting supply companies.

I knit the Santa Hat on the my Silver Reed knitting machine. Instead of a white garter stitch band, I used a hung hem. It was the first time I used my new garter bars from Kris Krafter, and I loved it!

I hand knit the Grumpy, lump of Coal by hand.

The project was alot of fun to do. It took me about 2 1/2 hours to make the whole thing. Vet2Be asked me to make one for his White Elephant party, too.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Booster Fan

We have problems keeping the great room warm. It's a big room with a vaulted ceiling, and it is an addition. The people who built the addition jury-rigged the heating vents by taking one vent from the living room and re-routing it through the basement, splitting it into two ducts, and then installing them into the great room.

It didn't work very well.

We aren't ready to re-do the duct work in the basement, which is what should happen.

We use the woodstove almost every day in the winter to keep this big room reasonably warm without roasting the bedrooms. Sometimes we have 'red burn' days that they ask people not to burn because the air is so bad. We will usually use the stove anyway because it is the only way to really keep that room warm.

A few months ago Son1 fixed the holes in the duct work, which helped a little, and we also found a booster fan for the vent.

It's pretty noisy so I would never use this in a bedroom, but it works well in the great room. It turns on when warm air starts to go through, and shuts off automatically when the air is cooler. It can be set to work with either the furnace or the air conditioner.

I found some online that replace the heater vent, too, but they were more expensive and I didn't want to spend more money to find out if this would work or not.

We have another register in the room, but since it is under the table I haven't put a booster there. Also, since they are noisy, I'm not sure I would want another one running at the same time.

We're pretty happy with how it brings more warm air into the great room, so I'm glad we bought it. I still like having the woodstove going. To me a fireplace or woodstove is more than a source of heat, it is a source of peace and quiet, a nice place to gather, and it lends a soft and gentle feeling to the room.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Christmas Stocking Marathon

Son1 wanted me to knit some min-Christmas stockings for some of his friends at the University. I got nine finished and ready to go! Yay!

Prion needs five stockings for her friends. I'm working on those now. Blondie (a s-i-s..... Sister-in-Spirit) needs two more for her family.

This happens every year! A mini-Christmas Stocking Marathon! Some years I have made more than 60 before Christmas!

I love knitting them, though. They are fast, easy, and I can watch old Christmas movies while I am stitching them together.

The stocking second from the left on the top row has plain white yarn for the trim. That's because it is for a boy. The other stockings all have a baby yarn for the trim, which has just a little bit of sparkle in it, perfect for all the girls.
The funny thing is that every year I have to dig out an old one and figure out the pattern again. One of these days I'll write it down and be able to get to work just a little faster!

What are your favorite Christmas movies? I've already watched White Christmas and Christmas in Connecticut. I would love to know what other people have in their collection, it might just be something I can add to mine!

Update: 11/29
Here are the rest of the stockings that I knit. 17 stockings in three days!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Make-shift Shelter

Vet2Be and I built this make-shift shelter for two of the goats. Hubby didn't realize that when I said we needed one more shelter for winter that I really meant it.

So this one is built out of straw bales that we got for free. Since it is for goats, we had to stack the bales as if they were legos so that they wouldn't be easy to knock over. The boxes are filled with straw and are just like the little, square legos that the kids use to fill in the sides.

Here's a view of the back. Lots of rocks, pieces of cement, and junk holding down the sides of the tarp so it doesn't blow away in the wind storms.

The front entrance. Vet2Be and I call the spot to the left the 'kitchen' because we put their hay inside.

It's very cozy and warm inside. It fits the two goats very well. Annie was born this spring, so she is only about 100lbs now and can walk inside the door without scraping her back. She is being bred to Curly who is two, but still not full grown. They can both stand inside and lay down with a little bit of wiggle room.

We really only need the shelter for a few more weeks while Curly is here. He's just visiting Annie for about a month. We'll probably leave the shelter up all winter, though and throw the straw into the garden in the spring.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I love vintage postcards and illustrations. I know life wasn't any simpler then, but there is a warmth in their drawings and images that brings me a feeling of peace.

This image courtesy of
I'm not sure where I found this image, but I think it is lovely, too.
Our holiday will be spent with most of our children and some friends at our home on the farm. Hopefully some wonderful memories will be made for all!

I hope you and your family have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving Day, and a beautiful beginning to the rest of the Holiday Season!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Happy Cat

This is Stinky. Her 'real' name is "Pretty Stinky" because she's a very pretty cat, and when she was younger she had gas. Now that she's older, she can be a stinker by starting little disturbances with the older cat, Cookie.

Stinky loves to curl up on our bed every morning. I love looking at her. She looks so cozy and comfy. There are days that I think it would be wonderful to be a cat and curl up comfortably on the bed and enjoy a morning nap.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Family Theater

I found Old Time Radio Network a few weeks ago. Family Theater is found here.

It has 30 minute broadcasts of radio plays. The show ran from 1947 - 1957. I've listened to more than 30 already. The stories are wonderful! Most are happy and uplifting. All have stories with a message that is appropriate for families.

They had no commercial sponsor and many well-known Hollywood actors and actresses. Surprisingly, all the actors and actresses of the time support happy families and family prayer.

There are a few wonderful Christmas programs that I've been listening to. I've been able to record them with my computer, too. One of the Christmas gifts I will be sending to family will be a CD with a few of those old Christmas programs, hopefully it will be a time that my family can gather their families around them and enjoy, not only nostalgic radio programs, but the time they will spend with each other.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A "Hippy" Snowflake

I had a few minutes the other day and made a 'hippy' snowflake with Sharpie Markers and alcohol. I think it turned out cute! Two friends stopped by yesterday and I showed it to them. They thought it looked like so much fun they are going to try it with their grandkids.

Here is my first post using a milk filter to make a snowflake.

My Hippy Snowflake!
I put the milk filter on a paper plate so that the Sharpie Marker wouldn't get on the counter. If I was going to do this with children, I would use a paper plate lined with a paper towel. The pellon milk filter is made to let liquids pass through, not absorb them, so the rubbing alcohol needs someplace to go. I decorated the milk filter before I cut it out. I suppose you could color it and use the rubbing alcohol on it after you cut it out, but I think the colors blend better when it is done before cutting.

One of the other things I tried was cutting the milk filter with a craft knife as well as scissors. The milk filters are so much nicer to cut than paper that I could cut shapes anywhere I wanted! I didn't have to cut only on an edge, I could lay the snowflake down on my cutting mat and cut shapes out of the middle of the flakes.

You can see in this photo that I not only cut from the edges, I cut shapes out of the center of the side using a craft knife.

I've got friend who is probably in her late 50's who was never taught how to cut snowflakes. Next week I plan on bringing some milk filters and all the other supplies I need over to her home and we'll make a few snowflakes together. I've already told her I'm coming, and she is very excited! Me, too!

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Basket for Yarn!

I've been watching at the local thrift store hoping to find a picnic basket that will work to store some of my extra yarn in under the knitting machine. The ones I've found so far were not something I could use. Some had fabric lining, which would be nice, except they had food stains and mold and I wasn't sure I could get the food stains or the mold out. Some were wicker on the inside and I didn't want to spend time on lining it, there are plenty of other projects to do! Some didn't have handles, some had no lids, some were in terrible condition and would have been best suited for the garbage.

But the other day I ran across a wonderful find! It is a large basket with a press board interior. The press board is a little warped, but it isn't stinky or moldy. The basket has a lid and two handles, and all three work! It fits under my knitting machine to hold the yarn for the current project. And it was only $5!

What a lucky find!

Patience, patience, patience. I've learned that if I know what I want and I am patient, I find it eventually, usually sooner rather than later. I've gotten so good at finding things that I have a list from several different friends that have asked me to keep an eye out for something for them!

Still looking for a 1952 edition of Great Books of the Western World for my daughter. We have one for the family, but she is such a lover of books that she wants her own set.

Do you have things that you keep your eye out for?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Turkish Drop Spindle

I am often blessed by Sheepy and her family's woodworking skills. I try to reciprocate with cheese from time to time, but I often get the better end of the friendship.

In December our family will be part of a live Nativity. I was asked to sit where the wool and spinning wheel is. Vet2Be will be tending the sheep using his own shepherd's crook.

I've been to this live Nativity the past two years. One family started it in memory of their mother and as a fund-raiser to donate to the hospital that took loving care of her in her last days.

It is a town set up with different shops and places to visit. There are always camels, sheep, goats, Roman soldiers riding horses, wandering people, and a wonderful spirit.

I have noticed that they have always had a spinning wheel at the wool shop. Of course, I never said anything, but spinning wheels weren't invented until the middle ages.

I asked Sheepy if she happened to have a Turkish drop spindle. I thought that would probably more authentic than a spinning wheel or a traditional drop spindle with a round whorl.

Here is one of the links we found on how to make a Turkish drop spindle.

And here is a photo of the one that Sheepy and her dad made for me. It turns out that she didn't have one, but she thought it would be a nice gift for me! It is!

The great thing about the Turkish drop spindle is that when you fill your spindle, you pull out the shaft, then pull out the cross pieces, and you end up with a center pull ball.

I'd love to try some Andean plying when I get a full spindle. Sheepy said that it takes some special skill to keep the yarn bracelet from turning into a tangled mass. My thought is to learn the technique with commercial yarn first, and then try it with home spun.

Always more projects and more to learn! What a wonderful life I get to live!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Little Sister Wedding Dress

I volunteered to help my friend get ready for her daughter's wedding. She really needed help with the little sister dresses. I took on one dress project, my friend took on the other dress project.

Thankfully, they turned out better than the little girls had dreamed! They loved them!

The fabric and the ribbon were not friends! It took me many, many hours to sew this dress. I'm ashamed to admit that I have taken less time sewing prom dresses than this one took. I re-did the neckline at least five times. I could not get the ribbon to lay properly and look nice. In the end, it was acceptable, but if I had had more time, I would have taken it off and done it again!

I mistakenly thought that these were the wedding colors. Actually, the wedding colors were red, gold, and black.

The bride was stunning in her lace overlay dress, the mother of the bride was gorgeous in her gold suit and red shirt.

Everything was beautiful and the bride and the groom looked very, very happy! I was happy, too... that the yellow dress with pink trim was done!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Better Than Plastic

Saturday I spent a few hours cleaning out the front flower bed. Needless to say, it was full of weeds and dead leaves. I ran out of space in the garbage pail. Hubby would prefer that we throw some weeds away instead of putting them in the garden, and these weeds were not 'goat friendly'.

I was dreading the thought of shoving weeds into the big green plastic garbage bags. It doesn't matter what I do or what I put them in, they get holes and are difficult to move.

Hmmm.... We just brought in a load of grain and alfalfa pellets for the animals. Hubby and Vet2Be just filled all the 55 gallon drums and put the feed bags into the garbage.

I thought those empty feed bags would make much better bags to hold the weeds than the green plastic lawn and leaf bags.

The are!

They don't hold quite as much as the lawn and leaf bags, but they are soooo much sturdier that I can pack them really full!
I've been saving the brown paper Purina bags to put around the vegetable garden plants in the spring. We couldn't think of a good use for the IFA bags, but I think I'll be saving them for a while! They make a much better garbage bag for lawn and garden garbage than the plastic ones.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Milk Filter Snowflake

I was looking up how to cut snowflakes because I couldn't remember quite how to fold them. I have a friend who was never taught how to make them and I thought that it would be fun to show up at her door one day with paper and scissors and just sit and cut!

It occurred to me that I have milk filters, and those might work well for making snowflakes.

I have no idea how I put those milk filters and snowflakes together, but I did. Cross-wired brain, I guess!

I tried washing my milk filters a few months ago. I put them in the dishwasher with plastic clothes clips on them to hold them upright on the cup pegs on the top rack. I set the dishwasher for the sanitize cycle.  I don't usually re-use them, but I was down to my last two and I wasn't sure when I was going to get to the farm supply store, so I thought I would give washing them a try. They came out clean and re-usable, and probably more sanitized than when they came out of the box!

Last night I decided to wash a few more, and see if they would work for snowflakes.

Yup! They do!

Milk filter snowflake.
They were easier to cut than paper, which surprised me a little. I'm sure that they will do much better on the windows, too. Our windows tend to collect moisture, and the paper snowflakes get all gloopy. I am almost tempted to try dying them before I cut them with some blue sharpie markers and alcohol, just to see how pretty that might be!

Here's my opened box of milk filters.
I'll be washing milk filters all week to save enough for snowflakes! Then I'll stop by my friends with some scissors and re-cycled milk filters to teach her how to cut snowflakes.

Here's a video that shows how to use Sharpie markers and rubbing alcohol to dye.

I think small hobby farmers are always on the lookout for a way to re-use things that are normally disposable. I don't think we live especially 'green', but I am surprised at how many things we re-use compared to others we know.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I made some more chevre last week. I really want to try making some homemade Velveeta. Here's the link for the recipe.

Instead, I just made the plain chevre again. I've been watching some of the cheesemaking and goat lists for ideas on what to flavor it with. Our favorite is onion, garlic, basil, and salt. Yum!

But here are a few other ideas:
  • chipolte pepper
  • onion and herb
  • garlic and herb
  • bacon and ranch (I think they must use the powdered ranch dressing)
  • jalapeno and bacon
  • a few different McCormic spice blends--one was Roasted Garlic and Sweet Pepper
  • others use some of the Weber (the grill people) spice blends

Some sweet additives are:
  • powdered sugar then rolled in crushed Heath bars
  • powdered sugar and chocolate chips rolled in nuts (I would use pecans, but I'm sure others would like walnuts)
  • plain chevre with warmed cajeta poured over the top, served with graham crackers
  • cinnamon and honey used as a breakfast spread on toast
I'm sure it would work really well with any cheese ball recipes, too.

I was also told that chevre freezes beautifully, so I have 4 containers in the freezer. I'll save them for the upcoming holidays!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Gouda Adventure

I went to a cheesemaking class on Saturday to learn how to make Gouda. Today is my first attempt at home. Well, I did it last Saturday, but it took me a while to get all the photos up!

I am using the recipe from Home Cheesemaking by Ricki Carroll with no adjustments. I always use a new recipe as directed. I'll often change things a little later, but for the first time I trust the recipe.

Step 1
Heat 2 gallons whole milk to 90˚F. Add 4 ounces mesophilic starter or 1 packet of mesophilic direct-set starter. Cover and allow the milk to ripen for 10 minutes.

I buy my supplies from New England Cheesemaking Supply company. There is a local cheese supply store, but they aren't open all the time. Many of their supplies come from New England Cheese Supply, so if she happens to be open when I need something, I buy from her. But usually it is much easier to purchase something online and have it shipped right to my door.

Step 2 and 3
I don't add calcium chloride because we use goat's milk, but that is step 2. After waiting for the starter to ripen for 10 minutes, add 1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet that has been diluted in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water. I used to 'eye-ball' the water, but after reading the first few chapters in American Farmstead Cheese by Paul Kindstedt, I decided it was best to measure the water accurately. I didn't realize it would make a difference, but apparently it can!

Stir the rennet with an up-and-down motion for 1 minute. Cover and let the milk set at 90˚F for 1 hour.

Clean break--it's ready to cut into cubes.
 At the class someone mentioned something about stirring the rennet and how long we had to stir it for. I noticed a few months ago that I could see the swirls of rennet (it has a very, very faint oily look to it) on the surface of the milk. I generally stir until that is no longer visible, usually 1-2 minutes. Then I know that the rennet is mixed in well. The oily swirl is very, very faint and I have to have a light on the milk in order to see it.

After about 40 minutes I set a pot on the stove to heat some water to close to boiling. I'll need some water that is 175˚F in Step 5 so I want to have it ready before I need it.

Step 4
Cut the curd into 1/2 inch cubes. I decided to cut the layers with my curd spoon first this time, instead of making the vertical cuts first. It seems to be just a bit easier and I ended up with fewer long curds. Let the curds sit for 10 minutes.
Right after cutting. First I make the vertical cuts with a cheese knife.
Next I use my curd spoon to make the horizontal cuts.

The next part is called 'washing the curd'.

Step 5
Drain off 1/3 of the whey. I wasn't really accurate about that. In the class she drained off enough whey so that the tops of the curds weren't under the whey. That looked like about 1/3, so that's what I'm doing. 
Pour the whey into a colander lined with a cloth to catch any curds that might slip through. Then put the curds back into the pot. No sense wasting perfectly good curds!

Slowly add just enough 175˚F water to raise the temperature of the curd to 92˚F.
175˚F water ready to put into the curds and whey. Just add 3/4 cup at a time. I added 1 1/2 cups at first and the temperature was a little high (see the next photo).
Woops! A little too much hot water so the temperature went a little too high.
Step 6 
Let the curd settle again for 10 minutes. Drain off the whey to the level of the curd.
The curds are beginning to shrink at this point.

Step 7
Once again, while stirring constantly, slowly add just enough 175˚ F water to bring the temperature of the curd to 100˚F. Keep the curd at 100˚F for 15 minutes, stiffing often to keep the curds from matting.  It is kinda tricky to add water and stir at the same time! Try taking a picture, too.... oh wait! I don't have 3 hands!

Step 8
Allow the curds to set for 30 minutes. That's easy! I can vacuum a few rooms, or unload the dishwasher, or clean a bathroom! I try to clean house on the same day I make cheese because there are so many little bits of time that I need to wait for the milk to get to the next step.

At the cheesemaking class I learned how to see if the curd was ready. Put a few tablespoons of curd into the palm of your hand and squeeze it together. If it falls apart when you push on it with your finger, it's ready. If it still sticks together a bit and doesn't fall apart easily, give the curd another 5 minutes.

Test 1: Some curd from the pot....


Here's what it looks like right after I squeezed the whey out.

Push it apart with your fingers. If it doesn't break apart into individual curds, it isn't ready. This curd isn't ready yet.

Curd test 2: Squeeze the whey out of the curds....

Push the curds apart with your fingers--these curds came apart fairly easily, just like in the class. I had to leave the curds for an additional 10 minutes to get them to this point.
 Step 9
Pour off the remaining whey.

Step 10 
 Quickly place the warm curds in a 2-pound cheese mold lined with cheesecloth, breaking them as little as possible. Press at 20 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes. This is a little different from farmhouse cheddar. Most hard cheeses that I've tried or read about say you have to press the curd when it is around 70˚F, not when it is warm.

My hokey-pokey cheese press with all the weights on top! I like the flat weights better than the hand weights, but I don't have enough flat ones yet... still looking at the thrift store and yard sales!
Step 11 
Remove the cheese from the mold and genly peel away the cheesecloth. Turn over the cheese, re-dress it, and press at 40 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes.

Step 12
Repeat the process but press at 50 pounds of pressure for 12-16 hours. Remove from the press.

Step 13 
Make a saturated brine solution by combining the salt and water in a noncorrosive container. Soak the cheese in the brine for 12 hours. The teacher at the class said that the cheese floats, so sprinkle salt on top of the cheese, too. Here is how I made my brine, the link goes to New England Cheesemaking Supply Company's website where they have a page on how to make a brine and how to brine cheese.
Brine solution.
The first test (strip on the bottom) wasn't acidic enough so I added 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid. That brought it right up into the correct pH range (strip on the left).

This is the first cheese that I've put in a brine solution. All the other hard cheeses I've made have you adding the salt to the curd, Gouda doesn't. The salt is soaked into the cheese from the brine solution.

Soaking overnight in the brine solution. I left it out on the patio because the weather is cool and that saves me from moving tons of stuff around the fridge.

 Step 14
(Sheesh! There's a lot of steps to this cheese!)
Remove the cheese from the brine and pat dry. Air-dry the cheese at 50˚F for 3 weeks. I don't have a dry spot that is 50˚F--especially not for 3 weeks! The teacher at the class said to air-dry it on the counter. That will have to do for now. I just don't have a spot like that right now.

The teacher at the class also said to turn the cheese 4-5 times a day for the first week. Then two or three times a day for the next two weeks. 

The next two steps.... even though I haven't gotten that far yet....

Step 15
Wax the cheese. Hmmmm..... do I wax or seal it in the Food Saver? I've still got a few weeks to decide, so no hurry on that!

Step 16
Age it at 50˚F for 3-4 months, turning it 3 or 4 times a week.