Friday, June 29, 2012

on a whim*

a couple days ago we packed up the kids and drove to the mountains for a spontaneous afternoon trip. we stopped at this little creek to throw rocks, play in the dirt, get our feet wet and eat lunch. the highlight of the day was the little frog that paid us a visit.

i gave esmé a pile of wool felt scraps and she made super hero cuffs and masks for harper, harper's friend and harper's scruffy puppy. it has also come to light this week that dr. seuss converse are the preferred footwear of super heroes everywhere.

yesterday we spent the day at the discovery center museum of science.
bubble wall = mad fun. 

happy friday, friends!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

crock pot honey greek yogurt :: a tutorial

 there are tutorials and recipes for crock pot yogurt all over the internet right now. after reading a couple, er, a dozen of them yesterday i decided to dabble a little and see if i could get this to work for me. after all incubating yogurt in a crock pot makes perfect sense, right? everything went well though it took me a lot  longer than i expected, partly because i was experimenting some and also because my little crock pot is pretty basic and definitely not top of any line. so i changed a few things to suit my needs and wrote up a quick tutorial so you can give it a try too!


 gather your ingredients. you will need ::
1/2 gallon (8 cups) of milk. i used 2% but it my understanding any will work. in my yogurt making experience the higher the fat content the richer and creamier the yogurt.
1/4-1/2 cup starter yogurt. i had approximately 1/4 cup of our favorite honey greek yogurt left so that is what i used. make sure your starter yogurt has live cultures in it. after your homemade yogurt is done you will save a half cup of it to add to your next batch and so on.
3/4 cup honey.

the process is pretty simple - you will need to slowly heat the milk to 180 degrees, or until it is hot and steamy and just below a boil. the first batch in my crock pot on low heat took 3.5 hours to reach this point! instead of waiting the second time i preheated my crock by turning it to low and putting the lid on, then i heated the milk in a sauce pan over med-low heat on the stove until it was hot enough. just be careful not to scald your milk otherwise your yogurt will have a charred taste. no good.

once it has reached the proper temp pour it into the warm crock and let it cool uncovered until it is 110 degrees or you can do the finger test - the milk should be very warm but not hot. it took about 90 minutes for mine to cool. at this point i scooped a cup out and stirred my starter yogurt into it then added the cup back to the crock. now it is time to add the flavoring - i whisked in 3/4 cup of raw honey.

next you will put the lid on the crock and carefully wrap it in a heavy towel or better yet, a wool blanket, and place it in the oven and let it sit, undisturbed, for 8-9 hours. this is the incubation period. if you plan your yogurt making right you can pop it in the oven just before bed and let it sit over night. when it is time remove it from the oven and take a peek inside - you should have yogurt! refrigerate for a couple hours and move on to "greeking" your yogurt.

time to transform that yummy but runny yogurt into the thick, creamy treat we all love!
you will line a colander with a couple layers of cheesecloth - i used some organic cotton gauze that i had hanging out in my studio. i can rinse it out after each batch and use it over and over! set your lined colander in a bowl and make sure the bottom of the colander sets high enough that it will not rest in the liquid that drains off. scoop your yogurt into the colander and cover it up (my crock pot lid fit perfect!) and place in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. you can check on it periodically until it has reached a thickness you prefer.

that's it! you just replicated your favorite honey greek yogurt! yay! my batch nearly filled the 32 ounce container in the photo. we ate it for lunch with homemade strawberry jam mixed in. 

and that suspicious looking yellow liquid in the mason jar, that is what drained off the yogurt. it is called whey and can be used for all sorts of things so don't toss it! you can use it in place of milk or water when baking. it can be made into ricotta cheese. i have read that soaking oats or beans in whey will make them cook faster. and apparently plants and chickens LOVE this stuff so that is likely what mine will be used for this time.

here are a few ideas i came up with for flavoring future batches of yogurt ::
lemon extract and raw sugar
maple syrup

so there you have it! please let me know if you give this a try! and i am also open to more flavoring suggestions.
happy yogurt making, friends!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

summer solstice garden*

our garden, or what i have affectionately been calling it, our cardboard jungle.
 i have been layering cardboard around the beds in the garden area to keep the grass and weeds from growing. it is working quite well though it isn't the prettiest of ground cover options. however, cardboard is free of charge and free of plastic. good and good.

these are the front beds and they are growing tomatoes, beets, carrots, corn, snap peas, zucchini and butternut squash.

everything seems to be slow growing this year, with the tomatoes and corn being the exception. i had planted nice, even rows of corn but the squirrels dug up several of the baby plants. this is what they left behind.

 the back bed has cucumbers and green beans and way back in the corner to the left we have potatoes growing in a wire cage.

 this is my very favorite thing about this year's garden. my little control panel that opens and closes the valves to the soaker hose that we added to each of the front garden beds.

today is the summer solstice and we plan to spend the longest day of the year outside :: bike ride to the BUGS produce stand, playing in the sun and a birthday party for a friend late in the afternoon.
summer lovin' done right!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

busy bees*

hot coffee * kombucha * organic orders * freezer jam * tending chickens * tending gardens * tending small people * picnic lunch * iced coffee * summer sewing * woolly knitting * fairy tales and chapter books *
good on you, wednesday.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

sunny the roo*delilah the baby

one of our araucanas turned out to be a big, handsome rooster. it became pretty evident when he was about 8 weeks old. my husband was positive that Sunny was a he, but i remained in denial. 

 this is what finally convinced me. about 15 seconds in. 

i had already talked to a friend about the possibility of a roo in our flock and she said she would love to welcome him to her one acre urban homestead.

this was sunny's last day in the rainbow coop. it was silly how attached to this guy we had all become. 

here he is with his girls.

 we dropped him off at the huberty homestead where he can happily free range and has a whole lot of hens to watch over. we brought home this little araucana in trade. we call her delilah. she is half the size of our big girls. it is quite difficult to bring a new hen into an established group of chickens. it is even harder to bring in a tiny, lone girl.

 we kept her in the house at night. she slept in the brooder box in my sewing room. esmé would wrap her in cloth diapers and let sleep in her arms on the couch. certainly not the typical chicken lifestyle. in the morning i would take her out to the coop and watch closely while she tried to interact with the big girls. they pecked at her and i let them. i just made sure there were no brutal attacks, and there never were. in fact only one hen, a black sex link named jojo, seemed bothered by her presence. i put a wire cage inside their enclosure and that is where delilah stayed with her own food and water, for nearly a week. it seemed like a safe way for them all to get acquainted with each other.  the night before last i left her in the coop to sleep all night. after dark i went out to check and the five big girls were all snuggled up on one roost and little delilah was all by herself on the empty roost. but she was safely in the coop so i let her be. last night i went out after dark and could not find her. i took a flashlight out and looked and looked and then there she was, all cute and cozy on the big girl roost, right in the middle. it took one week and it seems that they have accepted her presence. 
she is acting like a chicken once again and all is well in the happy, hippie rainbow coop! next order of business, eggs. glorious, fresh eggs...!

Friday, June 08, 2012

perfect chaos*

 summer vacation has arrived and the super busy, fun packed schedule was right behind. lots to do, lots to see, lots to make and lots to read. the kids and i signed up for the summer reading program through the public library. as soon as harper found out prizes and free books were involved he has talked about little else.

 esmé made a wall pocket for her teacher for an end of the year thank you gift. she picked out the fabrics and put her artwork on the front pocket and i stitched it together.
they are just like the wall pockets we made here.

 and she got straight A's on her report card! YaY! we heard through the grapevine that krispy kreme gives kids a free doughnut for each A. esmé earned ten fresh, sugary doughnuts for her hard work and she was sweet enough to share with her whole family.

 riley went from this... this!
amazing what a haircut and shave can do!

 he graduated from high school the next day and yesterday he turned 18. i am such a proud mama!!

 harper picked up a new summer hobby. when he isn't reading books to earn cool prizes he strums away on this little guitar.

 the girls in the happy rainbow coop are growing so big! we should have fresh eggs by the end of july, i estimate.

i have been relying heavily on sweetened iced coffee with milk to get me through these hectic summer days. i use this cold brew recipe. i made a simple syrup by pouring 2 cups of boiling water over 1 cup of sugar and stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. i pour the coffee over ice, add a little of the simple syrup and top it off with a splash of 2%. per-fec-tion.