Monday, August 3, 2015

A good excuse...

I like having a clean house, I really, really do.  Unfortunately, this rarely happens.  I only go on cleaning frenzies when my mother comes visiting (which is once every six years), or when I teach a cheese making class in my home, like I did on Sunday.  The piles of laundry got put away (or at least hidden in an upstairs bedroom with the door closed) and the floors got scrubbed.  I made my husband Steve do it because my back conveniently has been out of sorts for a week.  Windows were cleaned (ahem, thanks, Steve!), and I cleaned clutter (or at least hid it in my bedroom upstairs, with, you guessed it, the door closed).  I polished kitchen counters and the stove so that they were positively gleaming!

I love teaching people how to make cheese in my kitchen.  Not only because it gives me an excuse to clean, but because I love watching people being so excited about learning how to make cheese.

On Sunday, one of the hottest days of the summer, ten people crowded around my stove, cutting curds, stirring whey, and eating their body weight in cheese.  There were even two kids present who turned out to be pros at getting their hands in the whey.

My goats continue to crank out milk, even in this terrible, terrible heat.  Mind you, they do sprawl out in the shade panting during the hottest part of the day, but in the evenings, they come back to life.  I love to pull up a picnic chair and sit in the pasture with "the girls".  Their backs make excellent foot rests, and they don't mind as long as I scratch their chins.  Eva and her friends take them for walks to forage on fresh browse.

Another critter who doesn't like the heat is Pluto, my beloved 15 year old dog.  I think the end of his life is near, with a growing tumor on his backside, weaker legs, and more sunken stature every passing day.  But he is still happy to go along on walks, although he limps a lot at the end, and he still gets excited when I fill his food bowl, although he has been pooping it out on the living room floor every other morning.  Yes, the end is near, but in the meantime, we are loving him up.

You know who IS loving this heat?  The tomatoes, the figs, the laundry, and the calendula flowers, that's who.  The tomatoes and figs are putting lots of treats on the table.  There's lots of Greek salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, basil, Kalamata olives, and my own Feta cheese.  It's all grown here on the farm, except the olives (I wish...).  

Our fig tree is loaded with sweet morsels that look a lot like a bowl full of worms when you split them in half.  No, they don't LOOK very appetizing, but they taste like heaven.

The laundry dries in about 20 seconds, flapping in this incredible heat and wind.

And the calendula flowers? They grow new blossoms as soon as I harvest them.  I have picked many pounds of flowers this year, to be dried and then infused into oil for my goat milk soap.  Instead of using the jar-in-the-sun-for-six-weeks infusion method, I experimented with infusing them in the crock pot.  It worked great.

On the garden front, I had to put netting over the beans, because the *^&#-ing deer are nibbling on the plants and destroying them.  I HAVE to grow beans to make my famous dilly bean pickles, you understand?  So although it's not pretty, the netting will keep the bastards out.  So there.  (Visions of venison stew are floating in my head.)

My cucumbers are slow to emerge, but they are starting to yield.  

Lettuce is being succession-cropped, standing in the shade of their old-growth relatives, who I am letting go to seed for the bees.  They love the blossoms.  When the lettuce is done blooming, the pigs will finish them off.

And talking of the garden, we started juicing again, now that produce is abundant a few feet away from our kitchen.  Beets, carrots, collards, apple, zucchini make a drink that looks like wine, and in Eva's words, tastes like dirt.  No, it doesn't, of course... it just tastes... healthy and earthy.

I will leave you with a few random images from the week.

... a walk in our neighborhood creek...
... a sunset in the Methow Valley, where we camped out for a night, only to flee back home to seek relief from the heat. Ha!
... a collage of handknits, knit by my mother's arthritic hands and sent to me in a big package, along with four pairs of handknit socks, reducing me to tears (of joy). Now you know where my knitting gene came from!
... a wheel of Gouda made by my cheese making students...


  1. Thanks again for the awesome cheese making class! I can't wait to get started on making some yummy cheese!! That wheel of gouda looks more lumpy than the beautiful ones you make. Did we not cut the curds up small enough?

    1. Awesome! Let me know how your cheese making adventures go. I think what happened with the cheese we made in class (and that's why it looks a little lumpier) is that we left and went outside to look at the pigs and do the farm tour for half an hour. Sometimes, you have to check that the press is really pressing down on the cheese and manually press down for a second to make sure the follower makes contact with the cheese. So it just didn't press it enough in that first pressing. It's fine, though. With aging and time, it will look smoother, and it will taste great!

  2. Ah... your blog post was so inspiring!! Thanks so much for taking the time to share! You may not ever know how much you inspire us to keep going! Loved the knitted beauties your Mom created for you!!

    1. Awwwww, thanks so much for this sweet comment! You are right, I don't know what impact my writing and pictures have, except when nice people like you tell me! Blessings to you!

  3. That man loves you. The look on his face really says it all. Really happy man. You look pretty darn happy, too!

    Beautiful pictures. You might be having heat but we are burning down because we are dry as a bone. The air is filled with smoke (or so I am told. I am still in beautiful Colorado). I'm glad you didn't complain too much. Shows you appreciate that while it's hot it's not bad. You find the positive side.

    Your mom's work is so amazing. I started crocheting rag rugs. That is a forgiving process. I can't imagine having the finger memory to be able to knit such perfect things! I would cry, too.

    What kind of figs? We have black mission figs and I feel them for ripeness and then eat then right off the tree. Nature's Candy!

    1. Yes, that man does love me. I am one lucky woman!
      I'm having a brain fart, but I think the figs are the Desert King variety.

    2. I just read about them. They sound like wonderful figs for fresh eating. The black mission are good for eating but they are really good for drying.

      Now my sister and I are going out for our annual Rocky Mountain high 2nd hand store sweep. I never buy new clothes anymore.

  4. I loved your Gouda cheese making class - thank you for all the wonderful tips (looking forward to making Gouda soon, currently saving up our goat's milk!) and for sharing them in your home, what a cozy, personal afternoon with a great teacher and a fun group of people. :-)

    1. And, your mom is a talented (devoted!!) knitter, very impressed with her workmanship, all the pieces are lovely.

    2. Alexa, it was so lovely meeting you. Thanks for your great feedback!

  5. Don't feel so bad about netting your beans. My poor entire garden is under cages and nets. I almost feel like it's not worth the effort. And yet it is. The chipmunks destroyed so much this year it's almost unbelievable. The only thing I have left are the beans, some onions, a few tomato plants, dill, and blackberries. Every single strawberry I had (even under netting mind you) was gorged upon. This is our first year at our homestead so we're obviously re-thinking the garden situation.

    1. Ohhh, how frustrating, Nicolle... Sorry to hear about the destruction. Sometimes I feel like the first few years on the homestead are the hardest, until you really know the land and the critters, the best, the beneficials, the lay of the land...Don't give up!


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