Thursday, May 14, 2015

Blooming and growing - our plants and our lives

Life is moving at a relentless fast pace – in a good way. It has been warm and summer-y, and all the plants are way ahead of schedule. My roses are blooming two or three weeks earlier than usual. I am not complaining – I love the scent and beauty of my Old English roses.
I am relishing my flower garden a lot. On Mother's Day, my husband Steve helped me tackle (and complete!!!) a project that has been on my to-do-list for over half a decade. It never gets done because there are always so many other priorities. So when Steve asked me what I wanted do do for Mother's Day, I quickly made my wishes known, and after hours of hard labor my garden beds now look Sunset Magazine-worthy. My previously wild-and-tumble flowers are now somewhat tamed and look a little bit more civilized – just in time for my mother's visit from Germany.

We also re-did the access to the beehive.  Before, it was a mess: uneven ground, mulched with cardboard, ugly.  We leveled the area, mulched it with cedar chips, and landscaped with rocks.  It looks decent now, and we can actually inspect the bee hive without having to do a balancing act while trying to stay calm and move slowly as to not upset the bees! 

We love our bees!  They are very well behaved and are busy building comb and making honey.  We have so much to learn!

Aside from gardening (my garden is in!  my garden is in!), I have been working hard on my online cheese making course.  I am writing e-books on four different varieties: how to make Greek Yogurt, how to make Chevre, how to make Gouda, and how to make Cabra Al Vino.  I'm putting the finishing touches on all four books.  Next, I will make movies to demonstrate all the techniques.  Check out my class here.  At $59, it's a really, really, really good deal.

You can totally learn how to make this wine soaked cheese!

We are managing to fit in some fun as well!  The other day, we went to one of our local, wild creeks, "swam" (which involved jumping into the glacier fed creek, screaming really loudly, and jumping out again really fast!) and roasted sausages and marshmallows over a fire the boys built.

And, of course, we continue to play with the goats.  The goat babies are growing up!

I will leave you with a picture of my twelve year old son baking an apple pie, all by himself.  One day, he will have a very happy wife.

Friday, May 8, 2015

A perfect mother's day gift

Here's an idea for a mother's day gift!  I created a four-week online cheese making class (more info here), where I teach how to make Cabra Al Vino, Gouda, Chevre and Greek Yogurt.  

Many people love coming to my homestead to learn how to make cheese.  I have taught hundreds of people the art of cheese making here.
But the truth is - we live in the boonies, and it's a long (albeit scenic) drive for my students.  That's why I designed this online workshop so everyone can participate.

In this four-week class, I teach how to make four different kinds of dairy products - one every week.  We start with the easier ones and then move up to the more involved cheeses.  Keep in mind that even the more difficult cheeses are not hard to make!  I will hold your hand every step of the way! 

In this workshop, you will receive my beautiful, detailed e-books on making each cheese, filled with gorgeous pictures, step-by-step instructions, and many tips and tricks that I have learned in over a decade of making thousands of pounds of cheese at home.

​​You will know exactly what supplies to order, where to order from, and how much.

My recipes are easy to follow, clear and simple.​​  I also will provide you with recipes on how to cook and bake with what you make (cheese cake, anyone?).
And if you are a visual learner, you will watch me demonstrate techniques and methods on video, right in my own kitchen.

​​​The really exciting part of this program is the weekly live coaching call with me, where you can hop on the phone or computer and ask me questions, let me help you solve problems, and celebrate your successes!

Plus, we will have a private Facebook group where students can interact with each other and me.​​

Interested but not ready to buy? Keep in touch and get more info!

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Why I love community

This is me with Gracie, the goat.  I spent eight hours with her while she labored and tried to have a baby last week.  She licked my face and wanted to curl up in my lap.  I happily obliged, relieved that I could give her some comfort.

Gracie was the first goat I ever owned, and I raised her with a bottle.  She is nine years old now - that's quite old for a goat.  I sold her to my friends last year and immediately sped over there when they called to tell me Gracie was in labor.  My friend, her two daughters and I spent all afternoon and long into the night with Gracie, listening to her grind her teeth in pain, feeding her treats to distract her from the hard work, watching her get up and down a hundred times, unable to be comfortable, except when she was curled up in one of our laps.  We sang to her, stroked her wiry hair, and gave her kisses.

Things didn't progress as fast as I would have liked, but she always is slow when she gives birth.  I agonized over the decision to "go in" and feel for babies in her uterus.  There are risks involved with this dreaded task, and we collectively decided to leave her be, since she was not pushing yet.  At 10:30pm, I reluctantly left to maneuver the 30-minute drive home through deep, dark woods, dodging deer spooked by my headlights. 

I contemplated sleeping in my friends' barn, but I had dealt with labor-like pains all day myself (not due to childbirth but PMS), and I really needed to sleep in my bed.  I had a strong intuitive feeling that things would be okay.

I didn't get much sleep that night, worried about Gracie.  As promised, I called my friend at 5:30 in the morning, and she told me that she had checked on Gracie at 4am.  No progress. I told her that it was now definitely time to feel for babies since there might be dead babies inside blocking the birth canal, and if not dealt with could kill Gracie.  I couldn't come help her because I had to milk my goats and head for early appointments in town, but we have goat friends, and we mobilized them to help.  I talked her through the procedure of feeling for babies and hung up with a heavy heart.  

Ten minutes later she called me and yelled that Gracie was licking a brand new, huge baby buckling.  I bet Gracie was very, very tired and very, very sore.

I felt elated all day, not only because of the happy ending, but because of the gratitude I felt for our community.  We live in the boonies out here, and the sense of community runs deep.  We all rely on each other, more so than in non-rural places, I think.  I especially love my friends who have goats, since these are the people I can call at midnight when there is a problem with my goats, and they would not hesitate to hop in their car and drive over half an hour to assist.  The night of Gracie's ordeal, two friends offered to come up the hill to help, even though it was past their bedtime.

I love my community!

Let me show you some pictures of the homestead this week:

The ducklings are growing rapidly
The dogwood is blooming
The boys shooting their bows.  I don't know why Luke is dressed in a wet suit, I really don't.
Blueberries are blooming, and seedlings are hardening off in front of the greenhouse.
Potatoes are coming up.
Fruit trees are blooming and goats are grazing.  Plus, do you notice the lush, green grass?
The Clematis is ready to pop open.  I can't wait!

PS: I've been putting together some of my photos with inspirational quotes.  I have more on my Facebook page.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Here is part four of my onion movie - how to grow killer onions - hardening off and transplanting into the garden

We spent all day yesterday in the garden.  I finally transplanted my onions that I started from seeds on Valentine's Day and made a movie about it.

I know some of you have been following my instructions and have been waiting eagerly for more.  So here's the next installment: hardening off your plants and transplanting them into the garden with my awesome method (swishing roots in water bucket).  Watch here:

Onion Movie Part Four

If you missed the other parts, you can catch them here:

Part One - how to start onions from seed

Part Two - what to do once the seeds germinate

Part Three - how to fertilize and give them a haircut

Enjoy, and let me know how your onions are doing!  Feel free to post a picture of them on my Facebook page so we can admire them!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Spring in full swing

This week on the homestead...

...I hardened off the plants I started from seeds weeks ago, nurtured first in front of the wood stove, and then in the greenhouse.  Many of you have been asking me about transplanting my onions.  I will film and publish part 4 of my "How to grow killer onions" movie very soon.  Stay tuned!

...I transplanted peas and direct-sowed carrots, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, kale and collards.  Of course, as soon as I did this, the weather turned very cold, and the poor seeds are probably freezing their butts off.

... I've been harvesting lots of Asparagus, then steam it for dinner and drench it in butter.

...Between milking goats, making cheese, planting a garden, homeschooling, and writing a book, I've managed to take the kids to our favorite local, wild creek for a swim.  Yes, they are swimming in a glacier-fed creek in April.  Yes, they are crazy.

Luke takes the plunge.
Kai takes the plunge, and you can see from his expression how cold the water is!
...I've arranged many playdates for the kids.  There was a week when I hardly saw my boys because they spent so much time at the neighbors' house when their grandkids visited for spring break.  This left Eva missing her brothers, so she got so spend time with her best friend.  I also put them to work sweeping the barn and playing with the goats, which is not work at all, really. 

...Since we are talking of goats: I was the midwife for yet another goat mama this week.  My friends bought some of my goats last year, and one of them was pregnant (the goats, not my friend). When I got a semi-hysterical call from her twelve-year-old daughter telling me her goat was in labor, I jumped in the car and drove to her place wayyyyy too fast (usually 30 minutes away, but not this time, ahem).  I got there in time to know I should help the goat who wasn't making much progress, so I pulled the babies.  They were both healthy: one girl, one boy.  My friend's daughters wept openly when the babies emerged.  It was such a joy to be part of this experience!

Brand new baby girl with her mama in the background

These girls have since moved into the goat barn. 
Three happy midwifes!
...I'm also finding time to sit and knit by the river, so I can replenish my kids' and husband's socks!

A little butterfly landed on my finger while I knitted.

I will leave you with this picture, taken when I walked into the kitchen the other day.  My kids picked flowers for me and left a note.  It's good to know my kids still like me, even though I've been so busy that I have neglected them.  Am I the luckiest Mom?