Category Archives: Experiments

How Can You Save Money Buying Locally?

Have you ever heard of a wholesale buying club? It’s kind of like Costco for savvy shoppers who are able to pool orders together with other savvy shoppers and get amazing deals on REAL FOOD. Shhh, dont’ tell everyone about it though.

A whole new world has opened up for me this year. I can’t even remember the chain of events that led to this amazing discovery but I know it started with reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and then The Omnivore’s Dilemma and then seeking out meat buying clubs which lead to my discovery of the Kenmore Milkshed (how can I be 42 years old and never even knew you could get real milk?) and then all those deals they get gave me the idea to approach other farmers and ask if they had buying clubs.

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Chicken Love

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I did it – I didn’t chicken out. We got the chickens today!

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City Chickens

Chickens are on the list and now that the garden is started I’m starting to research them. Spinach and Honey had a great chicken post from a workshop she attended. It summarizes a lot of what I should be reading but I’m having a hard time nestling into bed with my Backyard Chicken book before I fall asleep.

We have a very large old doghouse that we plan to convert into a chicken coop but I’m starting to feel like maybe it’s not large enough from some of the coop pictures I saw on backyardchickens.com.

I planned to keep the chickens in the back yard in an area that I never finished landscaping. It gets morning sun but not summer afternoon sun. It’s about 5 x 15 feet with some nice shrubbery on the west and north sides which I would think would make it cozier but then I’m not a chicken. Maybe it makes them nervous that racoons can sneak up on them.

And my yard is constantly full of energetic young super heroes running and screaming, slip and sliding through summer. Maybe that will make them nervous. This needs to be good for the chickens and not just our breakfast. Maybe I’m chickening out…

Any chickens on here that want to comment?

Cheesemaking Flops

So I had a class on growing groceries Sat when I normally am shopping the UW farmer’s market for food and I was unable to buy my mozzarella from River Valley Ranch like I usually do.  I decided to make my own.  I had just taken the class a few weeks before and it seemed easy enough.  Although in hindsight I realize that may be because they did all the actual work and we mostly drank wine. 

It went well until I checked my curds during one of the rest phases and they were 110 degrees!  Somehow they had gone up from the 102 I had taken them out of the whey at.  I still can’t figure out how that happened but the resulting mozzarella was very tough.  It tasted fine though and in the end it melted just fine on pizza which is what counts.

Trying to salvage my losses I made ricotta with the spent whey.  An hour and a half later I had the tiniest fistful of ricotta to show for my gallon of whey I started out with.  It tastes good but I was a little disheartened.  And the dishes took forever to clean up. 

Totally worth the $5 per blob to buy the mozzarella at the market.  But don’t do it if you ever plan to buy mozzarella from the grocery store again.  You won’t be able to eat it after you taste this mozzarella!

I do plan to make more posts about cheesemaking in the near future so check back if you were looking for photos or recipes.

Cultured Dairy Products

Once we decided we would only eat food if we could trace all ingredient sources I found a raw cow and goat milk dairy.  We had a source for milk but what about kefir, yogurt, butter, sour cream and cheese?  These were things we ate a LOT of.

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Healthy Traditional Orange Marmalade

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Today I used my whey for the first time – to make some traditional style marmalade. The really nice thing about preserving foods in traditional manners is that there is no water bath – which destroys the nutritional value, heats up the house and uses a lot of energy anyway. There is also a noticeable lack of the huge amounts of sugar I frankly found disturbing whenever I made jam.

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Soft Goat Cheese

We’ve been getting goat’s milk from St. John’s Creamery in Everett every few weeks. So far I’ve made a chevre-type cheese several times and been very impressed with how simple it is to make and how fresh and clean it tastes.

This last round I made using a flora danica culture that I purchased from cheesemaking.com. I purchased that particular culture rather than their standard chevre culture because I could incubate a mother culture with it and hopefully keep it alive for at least 3 years, rather than using the small but spendy packs of dried culture. If you plan to make it frequently this makes it much more affordable, since goat’s milk is pretty spendy already. If you have access to fresh goat’s milk that makes it even more affordable.

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