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Making yogurt using our fresh, raw goats’ milk!

So making yogurt at  home just seems so intimidating, or at least it always seemed so to me. I don’t know WHY, really, I mean it’s not potentially dangerous the way making soap is and I’ve made my own soap for years, now! It was several years ago, in fact, that I first purchased a nifty vintage “yogurt maker” and then somewhere along the line I was also gifted another one, and STILL I was too intimidated at the mere thought of making yogurt at home to even read the instructions, much less give it a try! Well this year I threw away my fear and went for it. Let me just say, I will never buy store-bought yogurt as long as I’ve got fresh goat milk available! Actually, even when it’s not available I’ll probably still make my own because it’s impossible to find yogurt, here, that is not low-fat or no-fat and the majority of them either have too much sugar or chemical-laden artificial sweetner. Lastly, there are “ingredients” put into the store-bought yogurts that IMHO simply aren’t fit for human consumption!

As for the two vintage yogurt makers, they are very different in appearance (see photos), but the concept of how they work is identical. You plug them in, fill the containers with your inoculated scalded and cooled milk, cover and let them do their thing for 8-10 hours. This time frame is straight from the instructions from one of the units, but I’ve read elsewhere that it can incubate longer, so I’m going to experiment with that to see if I get a thicker end product! You can still purchase similar units, too, but they are NOT necessary. There are several ways to keep the batch warm, as I’ll discuss in a bit.

Basic Instructions:

  1. Slowly Heat the milk to sterilize it. (+/- 180 degrees F) The idea here is to gently scald the milk, not scorch it! I use an old fashioned glass candy thermometer.
  2. Cool milk to proper incubation temperature. (90-110 degrees F)
  3. Add starter yogurt. (Minimum 2 Tbs. per quart) This can be a plain store-bought yogurt or some from your last batch!
  4. Incubate at warm temperature +/- 10 hours (or overnight). Nifty “yogurt maker” is NOT required! You can use a slow cooker, cooler or warm oven… With just a quick search you will find numerous other blogs with detailed instructions on these methods.

Yes, it really is just that simple!

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Christmas is not just ONE day… Our family’s traditions, both past and present!

advent calendar

The latest addition to my ever-growing Advent Calendar collection!!! When I was very young, my Oma (German Grandmother) sent me my very first Advent Calendar. I still have it, too. Later my Aunt Helga sent me a couple when she was living in England. My oldest sister, Jaci, has given me several over the years and this one was given to me by my loving husband as a birthday present this year!

For us, Christmastide starts at Thanksgiving, but NOT because of “Black Friday” sales and such… The real kick-off in our family, I suppose, was (and still IS) the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, which Mom and I still watch together every year. We might not always be side-by-side watching it, sometimes we lived in different states, but we still knew that we were both watching the parade at the same time! The Sunday after Thanksgiving is the first Sunday of Advent. With a German/Lutheran mother that means the Advent Wreath is out by Sundown that Sunday! The ceramic Yule log that mom painted when I was a kid came out at the same time and I believe Mom usually set up her Nativity, too. For convenience these items were packed away together each year, too! Of course each year our Advent Calendars were also set out by December first so we could start opening a numbered window every morning before school/work. The whole house wasn’t decorated until mid-month or so, though. When Mom was growing up in post-war Berlin her family’s Christmas tree was never put up before Christmas Eve! When my sisters and I were kids, Mom eventually conceded to letting us put ours up around mid-December, and this is still about when we put ours up as well.

On December 5th we’d all polish our best pair of shoes (one year I polished my ROLLER SKATES) to set out for St. Nick. We set the shoes at the end of our bed with our Christmas wish list tucked inside. In the morning we could have found coal in them, but somehow we never did. Instead, there were usually a few chocolate coins and some small gift (like striped toe socks!) or a new pair of gloves.

Christmas Eve changed a bit through the years. When we were younger there was usually a party at either the CB (citizen ban) Radio Club or the Gem and Mineral Club that my parents belonged to. These usually included a visit from Santa and each child had a gift while the adults did a gift exchange or a Secret Santa exchange.

yule log

Several years ago Mom gave me the ceramic Yule Log that she had painted when I was a kid! Behind it are five wooden Santa’s, each depicting a different cultural version of the Jolly O’ Elf, and to the left (behind the Santas) is another of my Advent Calendars.Later, we started spending Christmas Eve at a small gathering of family and friends. My mom’s BFF, Rosemary, was Irish/Catholic and so the party ended with all of us attending Midnight Mass where Rose sang in the choir and her daughter usually sang the solo. (She sang a beautiful solo at our wending, too!) By this time I had nieces and nephews and we all opened ONE gift at the party. Usually we made sure it was a toy for the kids so that they could play with to keep them happy until time to go. Christmas morning, we would get up and rush to the living room to see what Santa had left under the tree for us! We were not to intentionally wake up out parents and we could not open any presents without them. However, our stockings were “fair game” and any unwrapped presents that had been left by the Jolly ol’ Elf himself could also be played with. AFTER breakfast the wrapped present from under the tree would be passed out and opened.

christmas 2014

Our 2014 tree is seen here along with our stockings and my large, felt Advent Calendar. Beneath the tree is a vintage sled that my dad found in their attic in Oklahoma. Apparently it had been left behind by a previous owner.

New Year’s Eve was spent with our immediate family at home. Mom always made sure we each had a few coins in our pocket so we would have prosperity in the coming New Year. We’d watch the Countdown on TV and then since we were an hour behind NY we set off some fireworks at OUR stroke of midnight. We also had a toast of glogg (mulled wine), even when we were kids. Dad was from Texas, so New Year’s Day included a traditional southern feast of black-eyed peas, salt pork, cabbage and corn bread! Of course, that morning was spent watching The Tournament of Roses Parade! This is another tradition that remains with us. I’ve been known to call Mom during the parade and we would watch/comment on the beautiful floats…
We only started celebrating Twelfth Night somewhere around 1990. When I was in college Dad and I were the first in the family to join the SCA (Society of Creative Anachronism). Eventually our whole, multi-generational family all joined, too, and so our local group’s annual 12th night celebration became an integral part of our extended family celebration!!! I’m an eclectic Pagan, and so along the way started celebrating Yule/Winter Solstice more than “Christmas”. Thrown in all this merry-making is my birthday on December 18th and my sister’s on December 29th!!!
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Homemade Laundry Sauce

Homemade Laundry Powder with Pink ZOTE Soap - December 21st, 2010 Tuesday

Click HERE to go to Heather’s version!

I’ve been making my own laundry soap for several years now, using a dry version consisting of a blend of Washing Soda, Baking Soda, Borax and grated Zote soap. I don’t know where, exactly, I first found this “recipe”, but the one over at Heather’s Blog-o-rama is (almost) the same:

1, 4-lb box of 20 Mule Team Borax
1, 4-lb box of Baking Soda  (Arm & Hammer brand)
1, 4-lb box of Super Washing Soda  (Arm & Hammer brand)
1  bar ZOTE soap, 14.1oz/bar
1 air-tight container large  enough to hold all this laundry powder.  I used an old bucket that originally contained store-bought laundry detergent. 

A month or so ago I saw a post on Facebook about a “liquid” Laundry Sauce. I’ve seen instructions for liquid versions before, but all of them involved heating the concoction to melt the soap and this whole cooking process just looked more time consuming, and MESSIER, than I liked. What caught my attention about this particular version was that it was a no-cook version and  was made directly in two mason jars in which it would then be stored – LESS mess than my current dry formula. I decided it was worth trying!

Ingredients:

1 – 5.05 oz Bar of Fels Naptha Soap
3 C water (boiling)
1 C Borax
1 C Washing Soda (not Baking Soda)
2 (1 qt) Mason Jars

For the boiling water, Liss’ instructions tell us that she just ran the water through her coffee maker. I don’t have a coffee maker, but I do have an electric kettle, which is probably even faster! So that’s what I used, and it was simple.

no-fail-laundry-detergent

Click HERE for the full NO COOK recipe!

Two of the most notable differences, other than the finished product being “liquid”, was that this recipe completely omitted the Baking Soda and also used Fels Naptha soap. In dry versions I’ve seen both ZOTE and/or Fels Naptha being used, but I had only ever used Zote. Being the first time for me to try this liquid version, I decided to follow the recipe EXACTLY and use the Fels Naptha. Before I even unwrapped it, I noted how strong it smelled. Not an unpleasant smell, but definitely a clean, almost antiseptic scent. Strong scents are a big no-no ’round here as they often trigger migraines in my hubby. However, he was home when I made this first batch and it did not result in a migraine.

In the instructions (click on the photo to go to the original website!) it very clearly states to be sure that the rim of your jars is not wet and does not have any of the ingredients on it or your gasket will get sucked into your soap and chopped into bits. It’s TRUE, don’t ask me how I know, I thought I had wiped the rims carefully, but on the second jar it happened. I was extremely DIS-pleased, to put it mildly, as we had just bought this blender the day before and now it was useless! IMG_20140924_133423Thankfully our local Walmart carries a replacement set and I didn’t have to buy a whole new blender or wait for a mail-order replacement gasket.IMG_20140924_133432 In the future, IF I find that I like this liquid version better than my DRY version, I will NOT be using my full-size up-right blender, but rather my trusty blender WAND. I have to use wide-mouth jars, but I’ve got cases of canning jars, so finding two wide-mouth quart-size jars shouldn’t prove difficult!IMG_20140924_133445

 

 

 

Time will tell if I prefer the old DRY method or the new “liquid” version.

 

IMG_20140924_102132

One of MY two jars!

It’s also too soon to note if the Fels Naptha CLEANS better than the ZOTE. I’ve thought about doing a comparison between the two, but apparently that’s already been done, too: Budget 101 – Fels Naptha Vs. ZOTE. However, it comes down to personal preferences, so I might still do my OWN comparison in the future! Also, my washing machine is a small, front-load HE, so it washes differently than even a top-load HE.

Categories: In the Kitchen, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Season’s Greetings from Dancing Moon!

Season's Greetings from Dancing Moon!.

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Missing in Action

I appologize for bing MIA the last couple of months! My 74 year old father suddenly became very ill upon returning from a trip home to Mississippi and was hospitalized for two full months… I’ll be back soon and update everyone on happenings around the farm! 

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Rustic Sausage & Summer Squash Skillet

Pattypan collageSo on our recent adventures to get a load of hay we serendipitously came across Sulaks Czech Baker and Meats in Clifton, TX. We stopped in for a quick visit to their deli for lunch and ended up coming home with a bag full of fresh garden veggies and a pack of their homemade Garlic Sausage to go with it! Shortly after lunch we had a blowout with one of the trailer’s tires, and were stuck on the side of HWY 6 for a couple of hours waiting for AAA to come to our aid! I was even more thankful for having stopped for lunch and having cold beverages with us to drink since the temperatures were well into the triple digits… So about those veggies and sausages ~ We really DID only stop in for a quick lunch, but there in a basket in front of the meat case was a beautiful collection of fresh vegetables that called out to me! I inquired as to how much they were and was politely informed that they were FREE for the taking and “just left over from the garden”! Well that was all I needed to hear! I quickly snatched up some eggplant, zucchini and patty pans to saute for dinner. Oh, wait… I didn’t have any sausage to toss into the skillet… Well played Sulak Bakery and Meats!!! So upon conversing with the MAN himself, the handsome one who MAKES Sulaks sausage, I chose the last remaining pack of Garlic Sausage to go with my newly acquired bounty.

sausageThe Eggplant will be used in a different dish that I want to try, but for this dish I used some sweet onions I already had on hand, along with a touch of Olive Oil, just to coat the bottom of the skillet and keep things from sticking as it all got going. I put the onions and sausage in first as this was fresh, raw sausage and needed to really cook and not just get heated through. While the sausage and onions were starting things off I next cut up the Patty Pan squash. If you’ve never tried it, please DO! It’s my favorite summer squash, with a delicate flavor and much more “flesh” to it than yellow squash or zucchini! Because of this extra flesh, it goes into the pan next. This gives it a little extra time to start cooking while I slice up the yellow squash and zucchini. I do a bit of a balancing act when I add the last of the veggies as I remove the sausage onto the skillet’s lid so I can stir the squash together with the now carmelized onions. I return the sausage to the top of the veggies, recover it and let it all finish cooking together. I don’t add any salt, pepper or other seasonings as the sausage and onions provide all the seasoning this dish needs! Other ingredients that I have added to this Rustic Sausage & Summer Squash Skillet include any combination of sweet bell peppers, mushrooms or couscous!IMG_9467

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Isn’t this MAY!?!?!

Isn't this MAY!?!?!

BrrrRrrrrr… this is Texas, so why does it feel like Wisconsin or something!!! I can’t believe we’ve got the heater going in the living room and that there is an actual FREEZE warning in effect for tonight! Our only source of heat up front here in my “studio” is a small wood-burning stove. Needless to say, all the firewood outside is soaking wet and it’s cold in here. The pictures with today’s post are of the actual farmhouse here at Dancing Moon. The first real snow we had here was on Thanksgiving day, 2007 and that’s when this snowy photo was taken, I believe. We call this rocky outcropping in the side yard our “rocky knoll”. If we were rich, we’d buy an old caboose and have it placed up there… but we’re not rich, so all that’s up there is a flag pole with a rustic Native garden at it’s base. The flag pole was here when we moved in, but it was just up there all by itself… so we added railroad timbers to frame the bed and then put all kinds of rusty found objects in it to make if FUN-ky! Last year I even added a real cow’s skull to it, in true Texas fashion.

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