Most visited this week:
Refrigerator root cellar step 1...dig
Moth pupa in the soil
How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?
How to help chicks during hatching
Building a bee waterer
A year ago this week:
Tomatoes and cold weather
DIY soda bottle tripod
Helium balloon crow deterrent
Walden Effect Facebook page
battery powered chainsaw
needed a new chain today.
Despite some bird
pressure that's been forcing me to pick berries a little on the pale
side, we've been enjoying delicious strawberry desserts for the last
week and a half or so. That said, I've decided it's finally time to pull
the plug on our Honeoyes. Not the variety
--- this early season strawberry is still a favorite. But after
expanding my patch from gifted expansions of someone else's patch for
the last eight years, viruses (I assume) are building up in the clones
and the berries are slowly becoming less flavorful. When even I want a little honey on my fruit (unlike Mark, who always does), I know that it's time to make a fresh start.
And, while I'm at it,
maybe I should try a second variety as well? Now that Kayla's in my
life, I can get away with ordering 25 plants of both Honeoye and Galleta
(an ultra-early variety) without worrying that the new plants will take
over my entire garden. Last year's addition of Sparkle
was a great boon to our homestead, so hopefully Galleta will be as
well. And even though the plants cost 70 cents apiece once you add in
shipping, when you figure that they and their children will likely feed
us for another eight years at a rate of at least a gallon a day, the
plants are definitely a bargain! That's my kind of homestead math.
The Star Plate goat barn now has a third door to access the new paddock.
admit that when my parents made lasagna with ricotta when I was a kid, I
tried to pick around the grainy cheese. But I now that I'm
experimenting with cheesemaking, I've learned the purpose of ricotta ---
turning all that cultured whey into something useful. And, sure enough,
two quarts of milk turned into 9.5 ounces of neufchatel,
while leaving enough proteins in the whey to create another 2.9 ounces
of ricotta. Thus, I've decided this subtly acidic cheese is hereafter to
be referred to as "bonus cheese."
Ricotta is almost too
simple to post about. You take your leftover whey and allow the liquid
to sit, covered, at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Next, boil to
separate the curds from the whey, then strain out the chemically altered
(greenish) whey off your new cheese.
Anyway, after you boil
your whey, you let it cool for a couple of hours, then pour the curds
and whey into a clean cloth above a strainer. I used our new straining funnel for this step.
After deciding that our first cheese --- an acid cheese --- was too simple, it was time to move on to a cultured cheese. I followed this recipe for neufchatel, which uses buttermilk as the starter culture and rennet to make the curds separate from the whey.
I'm not going to run
through all of the instructions for making this cheese since you can
find them at the link in the previous section. The shorthand version is:
take 2 quarts of room-temperature milk, add two tablespoons of cultured
buttermilk, dissolve two drops of liquid rennet in a quarter of a cup
of water and add to the milk mixture, stir, then cover and let sit for
about eight hours. You'll know your cheese is ready for the next step
when you see a clean break as is shown above.
Now you're ready to cut the curds...
...and drain off the whey
by pouring the contents of your pot into a clean towel in a colander.
You're then supposed to hang this bag of proto-cheese for a while until
the rest of the whey works its way out, but I was impatient and simply
squeezed the bag, stirred the contents, and then squeezed some more
until the cheese was dry. (Someone please tell me why this method is
wrong --- it seemed to efficient!)
The final result gets half a teaspoon of salt mixed in and is then ready to eat!
Mark and I tasted the neufchatel (top container), the same cheese mixed with some Hollywood sun-dried tomatoes,
and ricotta made from the whey. (More on the ricotta in a later post.)
Mark doesn't like goat cheese from the store, but he enjoyed this
completely non-goaty cheese...while I actually missed the goatish
overtones. Meanwhile, I've never been a fan of ricotta, but I thoroughly
enjoyed the homemade version, while finding the Neufchatel a bit bland.
When I get this one done we'll have 3 paddocks we can cycle the goats through.
I suspect one of the
reason women love goats is because the caprine herd has the exact
opposite problem we have. As a goatkeeper, one of your primary goals is
to keep the weight on
your goats. Between intestinal parasites (usually present at low levels
but sometimes veering way out of control) and the energetic expense of
creating baby goats and milk out of grass, dairy goats have a bad
tendency to waste away to skin and bones. Enter my weekly bout with the measuring tape to reassure myself that our goats are in fine form.
Our asparagus is slowing down, but the strawberries are just getting started.
This spring, I set out to answer the question --- is there a fast no-till way to eradicate overwintering weeds in a month or less? A tall order, I know, but my slow-and-sure kill mulches don't work for a lot of gardeners because they aren't able to think ahead to prepare the soil a few months before planting. The photo above shows four experimental beds (and a control bed that's simply been weed-whacked repeatedly) attempting to answer that question.
Option A involved a type of very thin, biodegradable black plastic.
The photo above shows Kayla helping me lay down the plastic three weeks
ago. The photo below shows completely dead oats underneath the plastic
this past Thursday.
Option 2 was solarization, which I explained in more depth in this post.
The solarization worked about equally as fast as the black plastic,
with the bonus that this clear plastic didn't shred after light pet
traffic. The clear plastic also held in the soil moisture, which was
handy since rainfall for the last few weeks has been nearly nonexistant.
Option 3 was a storebought roll of paper mulch.
This mulch was the least effective as a fast weedkill, although it
looks to be the most effective as a long-term ground cover.
Option 4 was mad of
entirely free materials, but I didn't lay them down until later than the
previous options and thus don't have a comparison yet to the other
methods. Kayla's father came through with a big box of newspaper
(thanks, Jimmy!), and I've been applying the sheets using different
methods in different parts of the garden.
The final method I'm trying is a more long-lived type of black plastic
that is supposed to be good for 12 years (assuming you don't puncture
the fabric in the interim). I laid down an experimental span in the
proto-tree-alley a week ago, with the plan of taking up the plastic at
the end of the month and planting sweet potatoes there. I'll keep you
posted about weed control there as well.
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