Monthly Archives: May 2014

Homemade Yogurt

Eat more bugs!! Having lots of healthy bugs in your system is really important for overall health. Especially when taking antibiotics.  One way to get some healthy critters in your colon?  Yogurt.  Especially the homemade kind, so you know there are lots of good creepy crawlies going into your belly.

Making yogurt take very little work, but does take a lot of hands off time.  I would say about 16 to 24 hours.

You need the following material:

Milk: I use Raw Goat Milk from a farm just down the road from us.  You can use any kind, although I caution you to stay away from Ultra pasteurized and Fat Free.  The milk doesn’t seem to respond quite right when it’s ultra-pasteurized, but pasteurized is fine.  And please, please use full fat milk.  There are so many great fat soluble vitamins in your milk.  I make 1 gallon batches, but you can make whatever amount of yogurt you want.  Your yogurt won’t expand or contract in volume, so if you want a quart of yogurt, use a quart of milk.  The yogurt lasts a really long time, I would guess about a month.

Yogurt culture: For the first batch of yogurt buy a plain full-fat yogurt that has live cultures. You will see the indication for live cultures on the side of the container.  You only need about a half cup to three quarters of a cup.  If you use more, that is fine.

Crock pot: I use a crock pot that holds a gallon.  I’m sure you can make this over the stove, but I’ve never tried it.

An Instant read thermometer: So you can read the temperature of the milk. I got mine for $15 at a local store.

Glass mason jars or other storage containers for you fresh yummy yogurt.

Empty your milk into your crock pot.

Turn the crock pot on low and allow the milk to reach 190 degrees F (or 180).  This lightly pasteurizes your milk so that the good bacteria we want does not have to compete with any other bacteria that will lead to spoiled milk.

Turn you crock pot off and wait for the temperature of the milk to reach 90 degrees.  This is the temperature is low enough that none of our good bacteria will be killed in the heat.

Scoop out about a half cup your either previously made yogurt or store bought yogurt into a pint mason jar.

Fill the rest of the jar with the milk from Crock pot and stir.

Add this mixture to the milk in the crock pot and stir.

After everything is well incorporated, scoop it out into the mason jars,

and put them in an oven with a light on.

Let it culture in your oven for 8 to no more than 24 hours.  You can tell this is done by either tasting it or testing the consistency. Put lids on the containers and store in the refrigerator.  The shelf life of this can vary, but if it grows anything fuzzy, gets a weird consistency or just doesn’t seem right, get rid of it.

Keep in mind, this yogurt is plain, so you will have to flavor it.  One of my dad’s favorites is to add peaches and maple syrup. You can also use it in a smoothie, which my son really enjoys.

I will be posting my basic smoothie recipe shortly.

How do you like to fix up your plain yogurt?

 

More Perennials

Today was my three year anniversary.  Chris continued construction on his shed, and I worked and planted some perennials.  I even had some help from my favorite little guy.

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I planted five plants.  Four of which are called Cone Flowers or Echinacea.  You may recognize the name since it is a rather powerful herb.  When I was pregnant, my midwife recommended I take echinacea for a minor infection.  It is an overall immune booster that you can take when you feel a cold coming on.  This plant is actually one of the ingredients in Airborne.

Native American, such as the Kiowa, Cheyenne, Pawnee and Lakotah, used this beautiful plant for its medicinal properties.  They used it for tooth aches, head aches and the common cold.

I planted them by the road, around the telephone pole, so it would be easier for my husband to cut the grass.

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I will be sure to add more pictures once the flowers come into bloom.

Beautiful with a purpose.  Nothing like celebrating your anniversary to the man you love with plants that have so many qualities to love!

Perennial Plants

Planting perennials, especially edible perennials, on your property is an investment in your property and is a long term investment that pays dividends rather quickly.  A perennial is a plant that you establish once and it comes back year after year.  Your plant may take some maintanence, but the first year of establishment will take the most work.  The upfront cost of a perennial is more than than an annual, but when a $20 tree lasts decades, it is easy to understand the perennials’ pay-off.

Perennials, specifically trees, do more than just provide food year after year.  They provide shelter for song birds, nectar for bees and butterflies, provide shade, have beautiful blooms and help prevent erosion.  Annuals, when done without thought, can deplete soil and add to erosion.

Here are some the perennials we have added to our property thus far:

Blueberries:

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The beautiful bush has beautiful flowers in spring, followed by berries and present a red hue in fall, .  I have planted 16 of these plants on our property so far and may plant more in the future.  I have heard that the plants will last up to 50 years.  That may be the rest of my life.  We have selected six different types blueberries that fruit from the beginning of summer to the beginning of fall and each has a slightly different flavor.

Strawberries:

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We planted a total of 50 plants from two different varieties.  They live around the blueberry plants as they both like acidic soil.  You can expect about 3 years of production out of strawberry plants. They make an excellent ground cover and produce beautiful white flowers.  Beautiful and Tasty!  This is the theme of my landscaping.

Elderberry:

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This is one of the two elderberry trees I planted less than two weeks ago which was shipped bare roots.  Being shipped bare roots means that when your tree arrives, it looks like a dead stick.  So please don’t judge it’s appearance yet.  You can see it has little green leaves sprouting.  The plant is starting to make itself feel at home.

Elderberries are medicinals.  Elderberry syrup can be used as a powerful antibiotic that is not harmful to your natural balance as medicines provided by the big pharmaceutical companies.  (my opinion, and I’m not a doctor)  The fact is that you can buy elderberry syrup on Amazon for between $10 – $20 for 8 ounces.  or you can make it yourself, which I will demonstrate once I have elderberries from my trees to use.

You can also make elderberry wine, and jelly.  A well-rounded plant with many uses.

Apple Tree:

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Currently, I have two apple trees. I’m not sure if or how many more we may add.  Apples trees also get beautiful white flowers before they fruit, and can fruit for up to 50 years.

Paw Paw:

20140513_190939What in the world is a paw paw?  A paw paw is actually a plant that is native to the Eastern United States.  For those of use living in that region, it means they are quite easy to grow.  The flowers are gorgeous and attract the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly.  Some gardeners and wildlife lovers plant this tree for the sole purpose of enjoying the Zebra Swallowtail and the beautiful blooms of the tree.  BUT WAIT!! THERE’S MORE!  Easy to grow, beautiful, attracts and supports a rare butterfly.  More than that? Yes.

Paw paws produce a fruit that has a custard-like consistency and tastes like vanilla banana.  You will need more than one, as they are not able to pollinate themselves.

Plums:

IMG_1994I have one plum tree that is a self-pollinating variety.  This spring it treated us to beautiful flowers for over a week.  The show it puts on competes with that of the exclusively decorative trees.  And you get delicious sweet fruits from it.

Peach Tree:

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This was a bonus on our property.  This peach tree lives on the edge of the wooded area, and we assume it is a volunteer from a discarded peach pit.  We were pleasantly surprised by peaches last year, and we look forward to it again.  Jaxson enjoyed them quite a bit:

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Almond Tree:

This looks very similar to the peach tree and is related to the peach tree.  In fact, the peach and almond tree can cross pollinate.  As you can see, both trees get beautiful pink blooms in Spring.

Pear Tree:

We have two Pear trees in our chicken run. They look very similar to the apple trees and have wonderful white flowers in the Spring.

We also have 2 grape vines, asparagus, lavender and mint (which has a hint of chocolate).  We still have many more perennials we are planning on adding.

You may be thinking, “What are you going to do with all of this fruit?”. We do food preservation.  We would like to share our wholesome, natural, local food with our community.  So once we get a surplus, we may make it available for purchase.  What we don’t eat, preserve, or share we can give to our chickens and let the birds eat.  And even if they rot on the ground, they are adding fertility to our soil.  There are so many pros and not many cons.

Our Property

Chris and I purchased our property in January 2013.  It was perfect for us: Southern Facing, partially wooded, three bedroom, and a home that was about 1,000 square feet.  The perfect size for our family.

I wanted to make our home a place that produced more than it consumed.  We bring in milk, and we output yogurt and cheese.  I bring in seeds, I produce tomatoes and sauces.  I don’t want us to be self-sufficient, I just no longer wanted to be reliant on the big corporations for ever little thing.  I wanted to make most of we used, and this property makes it easier for us to do that.

Our property has about an acre of young woods.  That means the trees are relatively small, and there is a lot of scrub brush.   This makes it difficult to navigate in the summer when the thorny plants and poison ivy take over.  This will be a big project to clear out the brush, so we are focusing on the open areas first.

The first thing we did was prepare our place for chickens.  I bought day-old chicks online and my husband constructed a coop.

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Chris made this coop with re-used materials.  The posts were from fencing company with plans to burn them.  The siding is cedar and was torn off a foreclosed house.  And the framing used old pallets. With his skill and ingenuity, we were able to build this coop for less than $50.

Along with the chickens, we added a garden, and some fruit trees.

My biggest focus in upgrading our land is productivity.  So when I add trees, I want to add trees that fruit.  I will be discussing what we have added to our land, and some surprises we found as the summer unfolded last year.  Thanks for coming along with me on my journey!