Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Work in Progress

Jim and the boys are currently working on the cabinets that will be installed in our main floor kitchen. It's amazing to me that these cabinets are over 20 years old, yet look like new. Friends of ours pulled them out of a kitchen before it was to be remodeled. They were installed right to the wall of the other house, so the guys have had to repair some slight damage from taking them out of that house. They also put backs on them and stained areas that will be exposed. The other house had a galley style kitchen, so it was a challenge to figure out how to fit them into our kitchen. I think they've done a very good job.

Jim has also been installing drywall in the kitchen, and even installed a window above where the stove will be located. Imagine cooking supper and looking out over our garden area!

Jim was thrilled when he went to Menard's in Minot on Friday and found just the ladder we needed! We haven't had one that could reach to the roof of our house, and this one will be much safer to use.

By the time I got the camera out, Peter was coming back down the ladder. I handed him the camera and he went back up to take some photos.

Jim and Andrew making sure the ladder didn't slip. You could certainly pick Jim out in a crowd if he wore that fluorescent jacket!

We'll have a whole different view of the lake when we move upstairs ... From the rooftop, Peter could see above the trees!

We'll have to take more photos when spring arrives.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Getting Things Squared Away

It's nice to have our septic system working again. We've had trouble with it just about every year since it was installed, and it's getting a bit old. The toilet wasn't flushing, so we had to resort to the "flush and plunge" method.

Jim checked the tank, and it was full. We have yet to figure out why the liquid portion hasn't been flowing into the drain field, and are very open to suggestions. The first time this happened one winter we called the local man that pumps out septic tanks, and he mentioned there seems to be no action in the tank. It cost us $100 to have him pump it out, so the next time we had trouble Jim devised a way to do it himself. Probably this summer we'll have the man back to pump out the solids, but we can handle the rest. I was amazed that all the man did with what he pumped out was to go into our big field, and at one of the edges he pumped out his tank!

Someone accidentally unplugged one of the upstairs chest freezers, and my bags of raspberries placed in there last summer when I didn't have time to make jam had been thawing. So, I was up very late last night to complete the jam process.

I've also been putting in extra time to help prepare for the upcoming homeschool convention. My job is to receipt all registrations into our accounting system, and Jim has more than a few projects for me to do with all my "spare time."

If you look closely at the hill behind Calliope and Sandy you will see snowmobile tracks -- and they weren't from us. Brian gave us a very good suggestion in a comment he made a couple of posts ago: Snowmobilers get a bad reputation from a few bad apples. Might I suggest that instead of a "no trespassing sign" --which will be ignored anyway-- put up a "Trail use for customers of the farm." That way they know that you know they're there, and they can gently take a hint. Plus you might get some business to boot.

Great idea, and now we just need to get the signs made!

This is another of Andrew's photos. I think he has a real eye for beauty.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cheese and Other Things

I find it's been tough to get a post in these days. Usually winter is a time to attempt to catch up on all the things I've let slide over the summer and fall, but this year we added a milk cow to the mix, and her milk has kept me pretty busy.

I'm amazed at how good tasting homemade butter is. Even when David makes chocolate chip cookies, you can smell the butter in them as they bake. As Jim commented at lunch today -- the more you eat the butter, the more you want to eat it. And we are learning moderation in everything!

I started out making an easy cheese, which was just heating the raw milk and then adding vinegar to make what I guess is called Queso Blanco. This weekend I decided to try the 30 Minute Mozzarella recipe.

I don't have any photos of the process, but it's very simple and tastes very good. I like it best when eaten warm, but we've also grated it and had it on pizza. I think one gallon of raw milk (not including the cream we've skimmed off the top) makes about 12 to 15 ounces of Mozzarella cheese. On Sat. I actually made 5 recipes, so that took care of one day's milk!

I now have the ingredients to make things like cream cheese and sour cream, but it takes quite a bit of cream and we need to keep up a supply of butter, so I haven't tried those recipes yet.

Yesterday I used the actual buttermilk from making butter for the liquid portion of my whole wheat bread recipe, and that is very good as well. Little by little I am learning to use as much of the milk as I can. For the time being we are storing what I don't use of the whey in a barrel that will be frozen and used for our pigs when we get them in the spring.

I have also learned that recipes don't always tell the whole story.

I've been using Ricki Carroll's book, Home Cheese Making, and sometimes I really don't understand what she is trying to convey in her recipes. Finally after making about 4 recipes of the 30 Minute Mozzarella from the book I had an "aha!" moment, when I quit stirring and just watched what happened to the milk before it was heated to 100 degrees and time to take it off the stove to scoop out the curd. Then I understood what Ricki Carrol was trying to explain in the recipe.

To me, cheese making is not an exact science. When I started to make a batch of Mozzarella yesterday afternoon I was thinking of the Queso Blanco recipe and heated the milk too quickly and did some other things incorrectly -- and it turned out to be the best tasting of the bunch. I am constantly learning new things.

Last night I finished up a batch of Mysost. I've done quite a few batches of this type of cheese, but after I added the cream I sat down for a couple of minutes to check email messages and almost burned the ingredients in the pan. It must have been the cream that turned dark brown and formed chunks. I was upset with myself, since the stuff was cooking for a good part of the day on the back burner. I quickly strained the chunks out of the whey, cleaned up the pan, and placed it back on the burner. Thankfully the Mysost was salvaged, but it made me realize I haven't arrived yet and need to pay more attention to what I am doing.

For anyone that reads our sons' blogs this will be old information, but I'll tell you about our newest member of the Bartlett Farm.
Last week one of our younger goats kidded. It was another one of those very cold evenings, so we ended up bringing her into the house to warm up. We were up almost all night with her, taking turns holding her up to the blower on the wood stove to get her body temperature up.
Instead of using the syringe all the time, Jonathan and Jim got her to drink the freshly milked colostrum from a bowl.
She is very cute, and at birth wasn't much bigger than our almost full grown cat, Henry. He thought she was great fun. The next day she was brought back to her mama, and has been with her ever since. It took a while for the kid to figure out where to get the milk, and for the mama to stand still for her to suck. But things are going well now.

This time of year the sun sets over our lake. I am definitely enjoying the longer days, and nice sunsets.