Friday, October 7, 2011

Log Carrier

I had seen log carriers on the internet and in the Northline Express Catalog but didn't want to pay that much for one. Some are fairly inexpensive ($15 plus shipping) and some get more expensive ($58.00 plus shipping).

Vet2Be said, "Leave it to a farmer to get what they need by thinking creatively!"

I thought a log carrier was a great idea, but thought I could do something similar from a recycled canvas or heavy fabric bag. It would cost less and I would have the satisfaction of recycling and re-purposing something!

Since I had just given all my extra bags to the thrift store a few months ago, I headed back to the thrift store to see what I could find.

I looked for a bag that:
  • was made of the same fabric that backpacks are made of
  • had straps that went under the bottom of the bag
  • had one seam on each side

This should work perfectly and it was only $2!
Here's how I recycled it to make a log carrier.

Since this bag had corner seams, I took those seams out.

The fabric is really thick so it was easy to use a utility knife to take the stitches out.

This is what it looks like after taking the corner stitches out.

Next I turned the bag inside out so I could take out the side seams. I could have cut the side seams off, but it was really easy to rip the stitches out of the fabric, so that's what I did.

Here's the bag with the side seams opened.

These straps were sewn into the hem at the top of the bag.  I needed to take out the stitches near the top so I could slip a support into the top hem. I only took out the stitches attaching the handle to the top hem. Then I sewed from left to right along the bottom of stitching on the hem (below the knife in the photo).

I happened to have a dowel on hand for the top support. This is my favorite way to cut a dowel--a pair of rose pruners!

One support dowel for each side.

I slipped the support dowel inside the top hem and folded over the raw edge at the side seam. Then I used a zig-zag stitch (with a heavy duty needle on my sewing machine) to hem the sides and keep them from fraying. I didn't double the hem--just folded it over once and used a zig-zag stitch.

I doubled the handles a little bit (about 10") because most log carriers have shorter handles.

Then I sent Vet2Be out to get wood for the fire.

He likes it much better than carrying the wood into the house in his arms!
It took me about 45 minutes to recycle the bag and turn it into a log carrier. 

I love to figure out ways to change something a little bit and use it for something else! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


One of my friends wanted to see how I make Chevre, so even though this cheese is soooo easy to make, I told her I would post a tutorial.

There are quite a few recipes for Chevre, the easiest one is to buy a packet of Chevre starter from New England Cheesemaking Supply. Be sure to check out the recipe tab on that page! Yum! This is the easiest method because the prep time is as long as it takes you to heat the milk to 86 degrees and add a packet of starter. This is absolutely the recipe to use if you cannot have cow milk.

New England Cheesemaking sells the Chevre starter packages of 5.

Fias Co Farm has a Chevre recipe here.

Fankhauser's Cheese Page has a recipe using ingredients you can buy from the grocery store here.

I use a recipe that I modified from Goat Cheese Plus (a yahoo group).

1 gallon goat milk
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon rennet disolved in 1/4 cup unchlorinated (or distilled) water.


Heat 1-gallon of goat milk to 86 degrees.

Add 1/4 cup buttermilk. Let rest for 30-60 minutes. 30 minutes is minimum, but if it goes longer that's okay.

1/4 teaspoon rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated (or distilled) water.

Pour the dissolved rennet through a spoon with holes so the rennet doesn't get poured all into one spot. Doing it this way spreads out the rennet and starts the mixing process. 

Mix with an up and down motion for 1-minute to thoroughly mix rennet into the milk. 

Cover and let the milk set for 10-12 hours (overnight or all day). If your house is cool (under 72 degrees) cover the pot with a towel or put it in the oven. You can also put it in a Wonder Box.
After 10-12 hours the milk should be set. It will be thick like yogurt, but may not give a clean break. Gently pour or scoop the curds into cheesecloth, a cheese bag, Chevre cups, or plastic cups with holes.

Sometimes you can see the whey separating from the curds, like this time. But sometimes it looks just like yogurt. 
You can hang the curds in  cheesecloth, a cheese bag, put the curds in special chevre cups, or in plastic cups that have holes punched in the sides and bottoms. Punch the holes from the inside of the cup to the outside so that there aren't any little 'pokies' sticking into the cheese.

Traditional Chevre is a shaped cheese, Farmer's cheese is hung in a bag (also called 'Bag Cheese').

Here are the Chevre cups I bought from New England Cheesemaking supply. I use the canning funnel that my friend gave me so that when I scoop out the curds they slide easily into the cups without shleping over the cup rims.

The whey will drain out the small holes. It will take about 10-12 hours (overnight or all day) to drain enough for the cheese to be ready.

You can also drain the curds in a cheese bag or butter muslin (which is much better than cheesecloth). I use the arm from my cheese press to hold the bag. You can hang the bag from a kitchen cabinet knob. Don't be surprised if the house cat or dog decides that the drained whey is sitting in the bowl just for them!

If I drain it from the kitchen cabinet, this is what it looks like.
12 hours later, this is how much whey has drained from the cheese.

This is what it looks like when it comes out of the cups.
My favorite recipe is really the New England Cheesemaking Chevre starter. I like the flavor a bit better than the buttermilk recipe, but if I don't have any commercial starter, I use buttermilk. You can also use less rennet if you want to since this is really an acid ripened cheese, not a rennet cheese. (Instead of using  1/2 teaspoon of rennet you can add 2 drops of rennet to 1/4 cup uncholorinated water.)

We don't eat our Chevre plain very often, we usually add basil, onion granules, garlic granules, and salt to taste. (look here.) Here's a link to another post that has a list of different flavors you can add to chevre.

This Thanksgiving we will serve it with pepper jelly on top! Yum!

Update 10/5/11:
The name of the great canning funnel that my friend gave me is Bottle Mate Canning Funnel. You can google it and/or find it here.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Quilt Top Done! Oh, My Stars!

Son1's quilt top is finally done! I only plan on finishing one quilt a year.

I actually have enough blocks from other projects to finish 3 more quilt tops, but I don't have anyone in mind for them, so of course there is no deadline to finish any of them!

Son1 wanted a new quilt since his old one is shredded--literally!

He wanted a bright quilt with stars on a black background. He had another pattern picked out, but the Block of the Month class that I attend started this one a few weeks after we had the fabric and pattern picked out for the other one.

That means I still have black background fabrics and batik fabric for another quilt top. I'm not sure if I like that idea or not!

I had the top almost finished two weeks ago, but then decided I HATED one of the stars, so I made another block and took the first one out. I'm much happier with the newer block, even though it was extra work to replace it.

This was the ONE thing I wanted to get done this weekend... and I DID! I love it when I can accomplish  something on my list.

I still have to put the back together, and then take it to the lady who does the quilting, and then put the binding on it. But at least the biggest part of the project is DONE!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bottling Beef

My neighbor wanted to come by when I was canning pork, but since I don't plan my days out to the minute, she wasn't able to come when I called.

I decided I would do a step-by-step tutorial on bottling beef just for her! I like her.... she lives behind us and loves to look at our animals.

Here's the recipe from the current Ball Blue Book (page 62) (Click to visit Ball's website.)

Use beef or other meat suitable for stewing. Cut into 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch cubes. Remove fat and gristle. Simmer meat in water to cover until hot throughout. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to each pint jar if desired. Pack hot meat into hot jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process pints 1 hour and 15 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a steam-pressure cooker.

I don't cook the meat since I process the pint jars for 1 hour and 25 minutes. We have to process for a bit longer up at our altitude.

Here's my step-by-step photos:

I estimate about 1-pound of meat per pint jar ("a pint's a pound the world around" as Hubby's grandma used to say.)
I found roasts on sale at the grocery store. I bought 2 to put into bottles.
Just like the recipe, I trim off the gristle and fat, cut up the rest into 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch cubes and pack into clean, sanitized jars.

1/2 teaspoon of salt added to each jar. I use non-iodized salt.

Simmering lids. There is extra water in the pan because I use the hot water to fill the jars.

Add water to fill the jar. Use a knife to release air bubbles.

Put more water in the jars until it is about 1-inch below the rim of the jar.

I don't have the canning kit for my small pressure cooker. I found an old round cake cooling rack that happens to fit in the bottom of the cooker.

I can fit 7 pint jars into my small pressure cooker. After putting the jars into the cooker, add water until the water level is about 2/3 of the way up the sides of the jars.

Lock the lid and set the pressure cooker for 10 pounds (or high pressure in a small canner).

Light the burner before putting the pressure cooker on it.
Let the cooker get up to pressure and then start the timer for 1 hour and 25 minutes.
After processing for 1 hour and 25 minutes, turn off the heat and let the pressure cooker release its pressure on it's own, that means leave it alone until the lock releases.

Then take off the lid, but Sheepy taught me to leave the jars in the hot water until the water is luke warm. If you don't, the liquid seems to escape from the jar.

All done and ready to go into the storage room!
Well, not all of it will go into the storage room. Son1 is home this weekend and he'll take two or three jars back to school with him.

Someone's gotta feed those starving college students!