Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Internet Providers :(

We had no internet and phones for almost a week!

Of course, our internet provider said it was our fault, something in our house or with our equipment.

And of course, it turned out it was their equipment.

So, now we have internet back, and our house phone.

I'll get back to posting again later in the week. I've been arranging 4 songs for guitar. One has to be done by tomorrow, the other three must be done by Friday.

One was much harder than I originally thought--so that has been what has taken all my time. One of the frustrating things has been that I can do all sorts of stuff: laundry, knitting, cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming, reading, making beds, talking on the phone..... you get the idea, and no one comes to talk to me. But as soon as I sit down with the guitar and try to figure out this song.... either Vet2Be or Hubby come in and there goes my 'right brain shift'!

Maybe I should have moved the computer and the guitar into the bathroom!

Friday, February 11, 2011

More Fingerless Mittens

I knit a fingerless mitten on the knitting machine for Vet2Be yesterday. It didn't turn out right. The thumb was too fat (too many increases) and the ribbing bind off around the hand was too tight.


I woke up this morning dreaming about the right way to do it.

I've completely reworked the pattern in my head and created a worksheet to work out all the numbers.

Here's the messy worksheet with all Vet2Be's measurements on it.

Just so you can see what the mess in my head looks like!
I'll let you know if the mitten turns out better fitting this time (or if it is a bigger mess than the first one was!). If I get it all worked out, I'll post the worksheet with fill-in-the-blanks so you and I can both use it again and again.

If it's posted, I won't loose the 'recipe' and maybe someone else will find it helpful, too!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Daughter's Idea

I use green onions pretty often when I'm cooking. So does my daughter.

She was watching some cooking show on TV (I don't watch TV much, so I can't tell you which show) and they said to save a few bulbs from the green onions and put them  in water. The green part will continue to grow. If you need some green onions but don't have time to go to the store, you have some ready to go! Of course that means you can only use the green part, not the white bulb at the bottom. But it is nice to have a renewable source of fresh green onions sitting on my kitchen counter.

I looked around for a tall, thin vase that I could use so that the stems would be supported. The stems flopped over when I put the onions in a mason jar.

"Form follows function." That was drilled into my head while I was taking pottery classes. I found this square vase that is wider at the top than the bottom, looks nice, and is tall enough to support the stems. And it looks pretty in my kitchen, which is always a nice bonus.

I think I'm going to look around for a nice pot. I wonder if they would grow better if I replanted them instead of just watering them.

I also wonder if I put a little miracle grow into the water if that will make them grow faster or if it will encourage more stems to grow from the bulbs.

More kitchen experiments to try! Just not with milk and cheese this time.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Yogurt, What I've Learned

About a month ago I read a post on the New England Cheesemaking blog about making yogurt.

What caught my attention was this:
Heat the milk to 185F and hold for 20 minutes (this will release certain milk proteins to make a thicker yogurt).  Then cool to 108-112F and add the culture.  Use the Yogotherm to hold this temperature for 4-6 hrs (or longer if you like more acid).  Remove and immediately chill.  If the yogurt is too acidic, reduce the temperature or time for the next round.
I gave it a try the last two times I've made yogurt out of our goat's milk. Usually I add some powdered milk to make the yogurt a little thicker (about 1 cup instant powdered milk for each 1/2 gallon of milk).

I was so happy to find out that heating the milk up to 185˚F and holding it there for 20 minutes really works to make thicker yogurt!

I still add a little powdered milk just because I'm sure the added calcium does me some good, but I like not having to add anything if I don't want to.

I also like knowing that I can make thicker yogurt out of only goat's milk. We have a little friend who can't drink cows milk, which means she hardly ever gets ice cream for a treat unless I make it. I think frozen yogurt will be a wonderful treat for her next summer!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

New Goals.... a bit late?

I like goals and New Year's Resolutions. But I like to give them a try for a few weeks before I commit to them. I have set my sights too high in the past and then I am disappointed when I 'fail'. I read a book called, "The Yankee Way to Simplify Your Life" a few years ago and I was inspired again to try making goals.

A few things that changed my views on goals is that when you don't attain your goal, it isn't really a failure, it is just information. I like that. I also liked the part that said to make your target (goal) wide so it is easy to hit.

I made my goals in early January and have been 'trying them on' ever since to see if they fit me.

I wanted to spend more time in my scriptures, so I made it a goal to read every day. And for the most part I have. That goal fits. I don't have a set amount of time or verses to read. Just spend time reading each day, and thinking about what I've read.

My blog doesn't really show how religious we are at home. For me it is a private thing, between me, my family, and God. Although if you were our neighbors you would find us sitting in church with you each Sunday, rain or shine, and doing our best to live like Christians the rest of the week.

Music is a big part of my life. You wouldn't know it by reading this blog because this is mostly about learning and living on a hobby farm. But in 'real life' I teach guitar. One of my goals is to play piano. My goal has been to play 10 minutes a day. Not much, but I know I can get in 10 minutes of playing time on the piano each day. And for the most part I have. I have often spent much more than 10 minutes, but on days that are really busy I know I can at least get in 10 minutes. (Wide target!) More specifically, I learn one new hymn and one new children's song each month as well as learning one piece each week from my 'lesson' book.

To push me forward more in my guitar playing I have been wanting to get back to playing classical guitar. Again, 10 minutes of classical guitar. I can do that. Well.... I haven't always managed that one. But I still think it is a realistic goat, and so I've kept that one on the list even though I haven't been as good about that as I have about piano.

I teach a student bluegrass band each week. And I let them pick the songs. That means I need to practice bluegrass each day, too. This one has been a goal that has fit into my life well. Sometimes it is 10:30 pm before I get to practice -- but I get it done and it has made a big difference in my playing.

I have a few books I've been wanting to read, or have started reading, but haven't finished yet. So my goal is to read one chapter in each book each week. That's a wide target and easy to hit! I have three books sitting on my nightstand and I rotate through reading a chapter at a time. If I have more time, then I read more (another tip--exceed expectations).

I've got a few video courses that I've been working my way through, but not quickly enough. My goal is to watch one lecture of The Joy of Science each week, and watch one lecture of Masterful Conducting  each week. The Joy of Science has been much easier to manage because I can turn that on while I'm cooking dinner or cleaning the kitchen. Masterful Conducting  has been much harder to get to because I have to be in front of the screen concentrating and practicing along with the conductor! But since I am the choir conductor at church, I need to keep plugging away at the course so that I can improve my skills.

I have a few other goals, but those are too personal to share on a blog. All in all, I've been happy with how I've made progress the first few weeks of the year. I haven't had to re-work my goals at all this year. I think I have finally learned how to keep them reasonable!

However, the real test comes in the spring with kidding season (and milking), leading into planting season, leading into gardening season, leading into cheesemaking season, leading into harvesting and preserving season. My plan is to keep up on my goals in the order they are listed above, so the first things to go are at the bottom of the list (Joy of Science and Masterful Conducting). Some things won't go at all (like scripture study, piano, and guitar) but they may end up being modified a little depending on how life rolls.

Got new goals you've been working with this year? I'd love to hear them. They might just help me to stay on track with mine or give me some ideas of what things to add to my list.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Proof is in the .... Peanut Butter Bars

My daughter (who is married to the boy-next-door) lives with her in-laws, who also happen to be our next door neighbors.

The three of us (daughter, S, and I) wanted to bring dinner into a neighbor who is very ill. S and daughter made pulled pork and salad, I made Peanut Butter Bars and rolls.

Since we are next-door-neighbors we decided to make enough for 3 families and then we would all share dinner.

That's how they ended up with my peanut butter bars.

Which they LOVED!

S asked for the recipe, which I shared.

But when she made peanut butter bars the next week her results were flatter and not as good as when I make the recipe. Sometimes that happens when trying a neighbor's recipe. Her's were flatter, not as tasty, not as tender, and didn't quite taste the same.

Daughter and I went through the list of things that could have been different.... but couldn't come up with anything.

Thinking .....  pondering .... what could be different?

Duck Eggs!! I use duck eggs when I bake! 

Duck eggs make cookies, bread, anything baked lighter, fluffier, and more bakery-like.

Here's my recipe for peanut butter bars.

3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup butter (melted or very soft)
2 duck eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
3/4 cup regular oatmeal
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2/4 teaspoon salt

Cream sugars and butter together until very smooth.
Add peanut butter and mix.
Add eggs and vanilla, mix well
Add flour, oatmeal, baking soda, and salt.

Pat into a jelly-roll pan lined with parchment paper and bake at 350˚F for 15-20 minutes.

Melt about 1/2-3/4 cup peanut butter in a microwave safe container. Pour it on the warm peanut butter bars after they come out of the oven. Spread evenly over the surface. It will be really thin!

melt 1/4 cup butter in a microwave safe bowl
Add 1/4 cup milk
3-4 Tablespoons cocoa powder
4 cups of powdered sgar
1 Tablespoon of vanilla

Blend well and spread over the top of the peanut butter bars.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fingerless Mittens

Our daughter lives in a state that is often -20˚F in the winter. And even though they expected cold winters when they moved, they also expected to be able to keep their home warm.

They live in a cute little summer cottage that was converted to year-round living, but not quite all the way. She can't run the dishwasher when the temperature reaches 0˚ or lower--the water won't move through the pipes. And they have been keeping their house at 55˚. They have a pellet stove and space heaters, but it is still chilly in the house!

A long time ago she had hypothermia and hasn't really been warm since, except for the summer she spent as a wilderness firefighter when she was close to the lines!

My friend has some fingerless mittens and I knew that I could make some on the knitting machine. I didn't really have a pattern--I had an outline of a pattern here (the pattern is called Magic Machine Knit Mitten Formula) that I re-worked to come up with these.

This is the first pair, so I know there are some changes I will make with the next pair. But these are the ones that will be mailed off on Monday to keep her hands warm inside the house.

I tried them on, and I was so surprised! They are a little loose around the fingers (one of the changes I will make in the next pair) but they are surprisingly comfortable and warm.

My friend has tried the fingerless gloves that have finger holes in them, and she didn't like them at all! She likes having her fingers free, so that's why I made these like mittens without the top.

They were knit completely on the knitting machine. I hand-latched the ribbing, but I used my KrisKrafter garter bar for the tops of the thumb and hand. I'm really getting the hang of the garter bar! One of the other things I tried on these was a join called a "Russian join" for joining the yarn ends together. It worked as well on the machine as it does hand knitting. They were knit flat, so I had to stitch up the outside seams.  The next time I make a pair I'll add an extra stitch along the side seams and latch them up. There is a link for that at Knitting Any Way.

I think the next pair I'll try using some wild sock yarn with stripes!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tea Pot

My Grandma sent me this tea pot as a gift many years ago. It was new then. As far as I can count, it is about 20 years old or so. It sat on our kitchen stove for many years. Then it was moved to the woodstove where it sat filled with water for many more.

It has so much calcium deposited on the inside and I'm not sure if there will be a bottom left if I get all the calcium off.

I found a new tea pot at the thrift store for $2.  It looks bright and shiny on the woodstove. But I couldn't part with this one just yet.

I like the our home to look nice, but I'm not into the IKEA decorating style. Nor much of any other style. I love to have things around that remind me of people and places that I love.

So the old tea pot will stay for a while. Maybe for a few years, sitting on the kitchen table reminding me of Grandma and her love for me.

Friday, February 4, 2011


I got a new tool for my knitting machine!

Here's what started it....

I am soooo excited to try it!

I think it will make it so much faster to transfer stitches from the ribber to the main bed when I am making socks.... that's my plan. 

I found someone on a knitting yahoo group that had one for sale for only $25 plus $3 shipping! They are usually around $65, so I snatched it up quickly!

Surprisingly, I was able to call the lady at the site and she sent it out with a bill in it! I didn't have to pay for it before she mailed it or anything..... that doesn't usually happen. I was pleasantly surprised!

I ordered it from The Knitting Mills, they don't have a fancy web site, but the service is wonderful!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cleaning the Closets!

I really needed to spend bunches of time on choir music.....

but when the going gets tough.....

the tough clean closets...... right !?

I should have taken a before picture of our linen closet. It didn't really have very many linens in there. It was full of milking equipment, extra milk jars, plastic bags, aluminum foil and plastic wrap, and my cheesemaking equipment.

But I NEEDED a place to put towels and sheets!

So I cleaned the closet--two closets, in fact.

I cleaned the coat closet that housed a bazillion empty CD cases, some old kites, too many mismatched mittens, and a book case.

We believe in "Fix it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without". We also try to re-purpose things so we don't have to spend unnecessary money.

So, I cleaned out the coat closet, and cleaned out the linen closet.

This shelf unit came out of the wash room. I had another shelf unit that worked well in the same spot--but would never have fit here. All of this was in the linen closet! My favorite thing.... to the left of the shelf is my parchment paper hanging from a skirt hanger! I have never been able to find a good way to store my parchment paper so that it wouldn't get wrinkled or folded! This is perfect!

I also hung up all my tablecloths and placemats using skirt hangers. Yay! No more wrinkles! I have a really ugly counter top in the kitchen so I almost always use placemats to cover it up.

One day I'll paint it. But right now I'm just really glad to have room for some towels and sheets! You can still see the extra milk jars at the bottom, but that's okay. I have room!!!

We haven't bought new towels for years... about 10 years. One of our local stores had all clearance towels (really nice ones!) for $4 each--so I got some new towels! That means if we have guests they can have a towel! A nice one! Not just an old one that we use for kidding season (don't worry--we never really did that to our guests, but there have been times when it was a close call!)

It's funny, I usually like closet doors closed, but I leave the closet door open a little. I walk by the coat closet so many times every day -- and I love taking a peek inside because it is so nice to have it organized and neat!

And then I tackled the choir music....

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

More Cheese Making Equipment!

Hooray! I ordered a new cheese mold and stainless steel drip tray ... and it came!

I also ordered some cheese cloth that is supposed to be for lining the mold.

Of course, everything is ordered from New England Cheesemaking Supply. I love them! Their service is excellent and they have so much help on their website that I am a loyal customer.

I've got 2 gallons of goat milk stored in the freezer and another batch of gouda is on my "To Do" list this week.

We loved the last batch of gouda so much that it was gone within a week! Vet2Be's Youth Leader at church has a smoker and he smoked it for us. Oh, my! It was de-li-cious!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Kid Sweaters

Not for two-legged kids, they are for the four-legged variety that will be born sometime in April.

Last year our friends who also have some goats, lost their only doeling because they didn't realize that she was hypothermic and they fed her before warming her. So sad! They did they everything they could to save her, but sometimes there is just nothing you can do.

I sent over some kid sweaters that I had made for our kid goats. We are with the does when they kid, then we dry and warm the kids with a blow dryer, then we put a little sweater on them for anywhere from two weeks to a month.

SB asked if she could pay me to make her some sweaters. I don't take pay for things like that because I don't want it to turn into a business. She brought me four balls of Lion Brand Wool-ease (my favorite yarn for this project) and I just finished the sweaters yesterday! Yay!

From 4 balls of yarn, I was able to knit four sweaters. You can see the leftover balls of yarn at the top. The one that is second from the left I used scraps from the other sweaters, stripes! I love stripes!

This is the belly-side. I could have knit each sweater with a single color--but I like knitting them with different colors. I think they look much cuter that way.

 Silly, I guess, but here they are all packaged up.
I guess I'm a little silly for knitting them with different colors on each sweater, and for packaging them up so they look like a gift. They are for goats, after all, not someones child!

We love our goaties, though! And so do our friends, so packaging them up just shows how much we care for the little critters.