Friday, February 22, 2013

"Making It"

I enjoy all of the seasons but Autumn has always been my favorite, followed by Spring, Summer then Winter.  Having lived in Portland for a little over a year now I have to say I enjoy them all equally! I'm definitely getting a little "cabin fever" and the occasional sunshine and nice weather, although a tease, has me really excited to start planning the garden!  I want to start right now (because the sun is out) but last year I started seeds indoors a little too early and none of them made it. 
Homemade bars of Soap, "rebatched" soap in molds
Winter's the perfect time to be lazy and snuggle up on the couch and gear up for the exciting months ahead. Although the days are cold and dark (and super short!) I've been keeping myself busy with plenty of homesteading projects.   I've been "making" soap for the past year - and by that I mean melting down pre-made bars of soap, adding essential oils, color, and exfoliants (oatmeal, crushed almonds, etc.) and pouring them into my own molds.  I have a book called "Making It" that has the recipe for making soap the "real" way.  Cam and I looked like we were filming an episode of Breaking Bad the first time we made, it wearing goggles and rubber gloves!  The bars seem to be a success but won't be ready to test for four weeks.  Right now they are still chemically changing and would be too harsh on our skin.  When they're done I can melt them down and do what I have been doing but the result will be completely homemade soap.  So if the zombies attack come find me if you want to clean up ;)
I've also been making all of our own cleaning products such as laundry detergent, dish soap, window cleanser, floor cleanser.  I've tried making homemade essential oils from our own dried lavender, and one of my latest winter projects has been homemade lip balm and muscle salve.  I really enjoy playing with the recipes and testing my creations!  I hope one day to not have to follow any instructions. 
For Christmas, Rebekka and Damien gave us a cheese making kit so that has started us on a whole new venture!  We were set on making "Farmhouse Cheddar" but decided to start with a simpler, "Frommage Blanc" when we realized how complicated the cheddar was.  We've been experimenting with it but for the most part it's super easy - slowly heat milk to 86 degrees, add cheese cultures and let sit for 12 hours at room temperature. After that you just ladle the curd into cheese cloth and hang dry for 4-8 hours.  It's a very versatile cheese similar to a sour cream or cream cheese (depending on how long you dry it). The problem we have been running into is that the milk me buy at the store is homogenized so you have to play with different ratios of whole milk and heavy cream to compensate for it, which has proven to be a bit tricky.  Instead of a gallon of milk yielding 2lbs of cheese, we've only been getting about a cup of the finished product - but it's SO GOOD!  I'm taking a 
Mozzarella and Ricotta making class next week so I hope to be a semi-pro after that!

Overall we're just trying to live a simpler lifestyle.  Why buy it when you can grow it, or make it on your own.  We like knowing what's in our food and where it comes from.  For Superbowl we were making a french onion dip and started looking at the ingredients in the dry packet mix.  It was a ton of stuff we couldn't pronounce.  I went on the good ole' internet and quickly found a recipe to make our own "dry" ranch and french onion mix.  It was a hit at the party.  We've added it to our homemade cheese a couple times and it's definitely quite the accomplishment to eat it knowing that we made it from scratch ourselves!  Homemade Italian Dressing is on our list, so is homemade bread!  But mostly I'm just so excited to start playing in the garden again!


Breaking Bad!
LayLa dustbathing dreaming of summer


Friday, February 1, 2013

February already! 2012

The first day of February has brought beautiful weather.  Although I usually enjoy a cloudy day with rain, today's sunshine is getting me excited for the spring and I'm eager to start planning the garden!  With Shelldon gone, the hens are happily sun bathing and the yard is mostly quiet except for the normal cooing and clucking of the ladies.  Slim and Stan are building up the courage to go back out in the backyard without the fear of the rooster coming and pecking them in the behind!  What an experience having a rooster was!  I hope that one of the hens goes broody again soon, this way we can try all over again.  Pete from the farm store said they just got in some Cream Legbar hens and will be expecting baby chicks in a couple of months. 
"The Cream Legbar is an autosexing type of chicken. This means that you can tell the sex of the chick at hatch, and they breed true. The Cream Legbar originated as a cross between Brown Leghorns and Barred Rock with some Araucana blood in them."

So a guaranteed hen - and they lay blue eggs!  Very appropriate too because they are a mix of LayLa's breed with a little bit of Shelldon's blood. I hope the timing works out! 

Cream LegBar Hen
Cream Legbars lay only blue eggs!
It's hard to say if the chickens know that Shelldon is gone.  Today they went about their business but last night EggBerta was the last one in the run at night and I believe she was looking for her "son".  The rooster was always the last one in for the night making sure his ladies were safe and sound.  I'm looking forward to visiting him next week, but overall I'm happy that he's gone and glad that he is in a safe place where he can happily live his days!