Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Feta Cheese Tutorial

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

Back in March 2010, I posted a basic walkthrough on how to make Feta.  This cheese is wonderfully sharp and tasty.

Feta (Greek: φέτα) is a brined curd cheese traditionally made in Greece. Feta is an aged crumbly cheese, commonly produced in blocks, and has a slightly grainy texture. It is used as a table cheese, as well as in salads (e.g the Greek salad), pastries and in baking. It can also be served cooked or grilled, as part of a sandwich or as a salty alternative to other cheeses in a variety of dishes.

Well after much practice, I believe that I have perfected my technique and I have recorded it on video for prosperity.  The video is taken from my YouTube Channel.

As I didn't list the recipe within the video here it is so that you can give it a go.


4 litres full cream milk (1 gallon)

1/4 teaspoon of lipase diluted in 60ml (quarter of a cup) of non-chlorinate water
2.5 gm (a heaped smidgen) direct set mesophilic culture
2.5 ml rennet diluted in 60ml of non-chlorinated water
2.5 ml calcium chloride diluted in 60ml of non chlorinate water (if milk is homogenised)

2 litres water (boiled)
1/3 cup salt
1/3 cup white vinegar
3 drops calcium chloride
Boil brine for 5 minutes then cool to room temperature before adding finished cheese.

I hope you enjoy this simple to make cheese and give it a try at home.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

A spending diary

By Aurora @ Island Dreaming

Recently I have gone back to recording all of our expenditure in a diary. At the end of every day I list all amounts spent, along with how (card or cash) and what they were spent on. I also have a tick column for whether or not the expenditure was budgeted for this month. All receipts are kept and gone over too; and mental slaps on the wrist given where I know we could have been better.

As the weeks of records build up, I can see a pattern emerge of when I am most likely to spend money and what on. I have the information I need to tweak our budget - I can see the areas where I am being overly optimistic and also the areas where I could trim a bit more fat. Flicking back over last year's entries, I can see that almost every time we went into town to run errands, we ended up eating out; and quite often not particularly frugally or greenly. That expenditure is now for the most part gone - because seeing it written down and tallied up the last time made me change my mindset. The diary also tells me that four years after first promising to change my habits, I still spend a ridiculous amount of money getting to and from work and buying food when I am there. Not so good.

The prospect of having to write down every last expenditure and then deduct it from the remaining budget each day has already made me unload one online shopping basket and put down several impulse purchases in the local shop. In short, it has made me very conscious of how I use my money and just what I am consuming. Every expenditure represents the consumption of energy and resources and usually the creation of waste in one way or another; and being confronted with a long list of 'stuff' that we didn't need is as galling as seeing a large sum of money that didn't need to be spent. Money also represents the investment of time and energy that we made to earn it - something else that I don't want to fritter away. 

A spending diary, even if you only manage to keep it for a week, is enlightening and you will probably be surprised at just where the money goes. Spending money is not a bad thing in itself - but it is better to spend it consciously, in line with your priorities, than without thought.

Have you ever tracked your daily expenditure? What did you learn? Did you change your habits as a result?

Saturday, 7 May 2011


by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion (note that I had posted this in my personal blog last month but thought it would be good to share here as well)

Hello everyone,

A couple of months back, I posted here a little ramble about my thoughts on pocket money, rich and poor. In that post, I wrote a little bit about my thoughts on "work" and I thought I'd expand those thoughts here.

See I like work. Its true I do. And when I say I like work, I don't just mean paid employment - I am talking about all the things that people call work - making my house nice and clean, ironing my clothes, and re-ordering/decluttering my house. Most of all, I enjoy helping people with their work.

To me work is primarily about being social and being healthy. Since the dawn of time, we have worked together to survive - to hunt or grow our food, to build our houses and our towns. Through work, I have learned how to get things done with people who are very different from me and most of all I have received the social benefits that come with being productive. "Work" is a tie that binds.

My children walking someone else's dog - not because they wanted money but because they wanted to help out...and they really love this dog. :P

The weird thing is that for some reason there is a predominant view that "work" is something that we should try to lessen. The less work we have then the happier we should be. Is that really true?

I don't know about you, but when I don't work...then I feel:

a) overwhelmed - because I am unorganised and it takes me longer to get ready for the day because everything is all over the place,

b) socially inept - because I inevitably arrive at social gatherings unprepared or with the wrong things

c) lethargic - because for some reason, the less I do, the more tired I am and therefore find it harder to even start working.

d) unproductive - because...well, hardly anything is getting done.

On the other hand, when I work, I get the satisfaction of seeing the results of my work and the self-confidence that comes with knowing I have done a good job. I am active and have more energy. And best of all, my world opens up as I connect with people who are very different from me and through those connections, I know that I have many sources of support.

Now some of you may have noticed a benefit of work that I have not mentioned - money. That's because to me money is only a secondary outcome of work. See, I love my work. So I pay attention to it. I spend time learning all the different ways to do it and take care to get it done right and well.

And because I want to learn about it and take care of it, then at my paid work this approach has resulted in an increased income in the form of promotions and bonuses. At my unpaid work at home and to my community, it has meant increased savings because I have been able to make things or fix things, and swap or receive things from others.

But while I enjoy the security that comes with an increased income and increased savings, I know that it has come about because I have loved work in the first place and appreciate the joy it can bring into my life.

And so to me, the best thing I can pass on to my kids is a love for work itself. Because if they love work, then they will always reap the personal and social benefits and with that will be the increased income and savings that work can bring.

What about you? Do you have work that you love?

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The Account Balance is Low

When hunger dogs winter's heels, old traditions point your feet straight to the pantry, cellar, or whatever little hiding place you may have carved out. It's time to go in and spend your culinary savings account lavishly. You'll feel mighty clever!

Connie Green and Sarah Scott from The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes

When I read this quote I smiled to myself. It was mid-winter and my basement pantry was stocked with all kinds of goodies. We had boxes of potatoes, onions and garlic. There were also rows of glass jars filled with all sorts of vegetables and fruits. Bright orange pumpkins and green squashes filled one corner of the dining room and the freezer was full of venison.

Basement Pantry

Figuring out how much you need to preserve to get through winter can be a little difficult at times. You don't want to end up with too much food come spring, but you don't want to run out before those first green shoots appear in the garden. You want to make sure your pantry savings account it low, but not completely empty!

Cleaning out the Pantry

This is the best time to think about the coming preservation season. Take a good long look at your pantry, what did you eat up quickly, what is still on the shelves not touched. Is there anything you won't be canning again? What will you can more of? Is there anything you can grow during the cold winter months to help supplement the pantry food so that you don't have to spend as much time in summer canning? Did you eat more dried fruit than canned fruit? Did you have enough garlic, potatoes, and onions? Did you run out of popcorn halfway through the winter?

A little time spent planning now can make your winter food savings account a little more balanced to your personal tastes and can make you feel mighty wealthy all winter long!

How do you decide how much and what to preserve each season? Has it changed throughout the years?

I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Ethel Gloves and Not Dabbling in Normal, and you can follow me on Twitter.

Monday, 2 May 2011

The Many Uses of a Hoophouse

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Justifying the purchase of a hoophouse can be hard to do if we think of this useful structure as just a place to grow warm weather crops.

That's a good use for sure, and in our cool, maritime climate, a hoophouse is insurance of a pepper and tomato crop. But building a hoophouse isn't cheap. Our 20' x 20' hoophouses came in at about $500.00 not including labor to build. That price included metal legs and bows, hardware, and greenhouse plastic. We used scrap lumber for end wall and door framing and if you had access to cheap lumber you could also build a frame from lumber instead of the metal bow system we used.

Actually we built hoophouses this size specifically for brooding chicks for our egg business. And I have to say a light and airy chick brooder is the way to go. Natural light encourages the chicks activity in the early days. We provide heat lamps but most days the lights are off only being used at night. Not using the lights so much is a cost savings, and a huge improvement over our earliest efforts at brooding chicks in a dark area with the only light being provided by heat lamps.

What is good for the chick - a light, warm draft-free environment is also a good place to start plants. To utilize more of our space we have our plant starts above the chicks suspended on temporary shelves. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that is true in this case. Once mice discovered how cozy the hoophouse was with a ready made larder, (chick food) they moved in as well, and discovered a liking for pepper and spinach seeds :(

It's hard to pin down the single best use of our hoophouse, all are important in our food raising plans. The more ways we can utilize this space throughout the year, the faster we get to the payoff of the original expense.

Time line for our small hoophouse:

January - nighttime sheep housing during inclement weather.

February - ditto.

March - begin starting plants with supplemental heat and covering as needed.

April - continue plant starts, and prepare for chicks.

May - finish brooding chicks on deep bedding, continue succession seeding.

June - move chicks outside to pasture, remove deep bedding, prepare for planting warm weather crops inside.

July - warm weather crops.

August - ditto.

September - harvest crops.

October - remove plants and rest space.

November - rest.

December - nighttime sheep housing in inclement weather.

Of course each situation will be different, and more uses could be found:

1) Such as winter time housing for rabbits, chickens, sheep or goats on a deep bedding system. In spring when animals are moved to pasture the bedding material could be removed and utilized for garden areas, still leaving enough residual to grow a summer crop of ??? Larger hoophouses make excellent winter time housing for hogs in high rainfall or cold areas.

2) A place for rapid growing succession crops such as mesclun or braising greens.

3) A place to raise broiler chickens off-season if you have a year-round market for your birds.

4) Hen house, provides natural light during the winter, and with shade cloth provides summer time housing.

Keeping all this in mind, planning a gap of at least 90 days from fresh manure to harvest of any vegetables to avoid any possible contamination of edibles, the possibilities are almost endless, with just our "ideas" to hold us back. Hoophouses can marry the idea of livestock and vegetables on a farm in a way our ancestors wouldn't have thought possible.