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6.27.2012

Catching Up

There is a lot going on here, and I have lacked the focus to properly photograph or formulate a post on any one thing, mostly because there are just SO MANY things I want to share/do/find/learn right now. So here are just a few quick teasers for you, along with a haphazard shot a took on my phone (the pics from the "good" camera need to be uploaded, but thanks to some voodoo magic I don't fully understand, when I take a picture on my phone it magically shows up on my computer... it must be witchcraft or something**).

**You all know I'm kidding right... while I don't fully understand how cloud syncing works, I don't feel the need to understand as long as it continues to work.  But I know it's not magic.  At least I'm pretty sure.


  No, this is not my field.  It would be awesome if it were (esp with that horse in the background- isn't he beautiful!).  I went to a permaculture workshop this past weekend.  I've been looking for a class to take on permaculture all spring, but all I could find either dealt with permaculture in urban settings, or were super expensive permaculture design certification courses.  Neither applied to me.  I just want to get a good understanding of what I need to know to apply the principles of of permaculture on my little plot of earth.  Is that too much to ask???

So I stumbled upon this class almost completely by chance (or fate!) last week.  The structure of it was this- the workshop was held at Katy-did Ranch, a previously part wild part row/monocropped farm in the process of being converted.  This guy, Mark Shepard, who farms over 300 acres in Southern Wisconsin using permaculture and agroforestry methods, and who also consults for other people looking to do the same, was there to consult with Whitney (the owner of Katy-did Ranch) on the basics of permaculture and what she should do and where on her property.  Those of us attending the workshop who were not Whitney got to listen, ask questions, and participate in this process.

I was relatively familiar with permaculture before the workshop.  If you're not, it's kind of hard to explain in a short sentence or two, but basically it models farming after what occurs in the wild, reducing waste, outside inputs, and effort (yep, I said effort) but while still in most cases remaining a managed system.  It's not the same thing as letting your yard go wild.  The argument behind it is that the more diverse a piece of land is, the more species it holds, the more productive it is.  If your interest is piqued, Gaia's Gardens is a good place to start as it's aimed at the backyard permaculturist and doesn't get too crazy.

But it's one of those things that I read and was like "duh, that makes total sense to me."  You ever have something like that?  I have a few times in my life, but this was a pretty significant one.  Up until I read Gaia's Gardens I was pretty set on what was going to happen in my 50x60 vegetable garden, but was at a loss as to what I should do with the rest of my yard, and I can promise you that we didn't buy 3 acres just because we really really like to mow.  In a perfect world every square foot of this property would produce something- food, fiber, compost, meat, medicine, maybe even a flower or two (but better if said flowers are good for eating or treating!).  That's not totally possible, but permaculture gave me some guiding principles to get as close as I can to that ideal without slaving every waking hour of every day.

Anyway, I got carried away, I meant to give a few updates.  Like I said, really excited, lots of buzzing in my head, makes me forget what I'm doing!

In other news, I'm leaning more towards getting a goat again.  I mentioned the goat milk source I found in the last post.  The lady I've been buying it from is SUPER DUPER nice, lovely woman with a lovely family, and she keeps telling me how much she has loved having goats.  Not like in an "it's all wine and roses" kind of way- she's kept it real.  But she got me reflecting on what exactly would have to happen before we got a goat, and how our life would change after.  The biggest hang ups for me so far have been two things- the cost of getting started (the cost of the animals, fencing, shelter, and equipment), and the fact that we would be tied to their milking schedule.  But the more I think about it, and the more I enjoy the fresh milk I have been buying, the less these seem like hindrances.  I've looked at our property and available resources afresh, and have priced materials with a different plan in mind, and have realized we could get set up for goats for little cost- a little retrofitting to the shed, a small permanantly fenced area, and some Electronet and we're good to go (plus milking equipment, but if we get a young goat this fall I wouldn't have to worry about that until next spring).  And I'm not hating the idea of being tied to a milking schedule either.  Most goat owners I know milk once a day in the afternoon, which at least means no early mornings.  And they dry up typically in the fall, so we would have no problems going to visit our families for Thanksgiving and Christmas as long as we have someone to feed them.  And really, if we desperately wanted/needed to go somewhere when the goats were in milk we could always find someone to pay to milk them.

Oh, and on a related note, I made my first goat cheese last week.  It's pretty amazing, although it's still pretty "young" tasting and tastes a little more like a really good ricotta than the tangy goat cheese I'm accustomed to.  I actually think I'll get better results if I use slightly older milk next time, as I've noticed that characteristic goat tang in older milk.  This batch I made with milk that had come from the goat only hours earlier (although how cool is that- raw goat milk cheese, which BTW is completely illegal to buy in the US, made from milk only hours old!  Awesome!).  Which is another reason I NEED to get a goat.  When I'm limited by practicality to picking up milk once a week and limited on the amount I get by the fact that their goat is primarily for their own use, so I'm limited to their surplus.  Frankly I need more.  So I can make more cheese.

And I'm going to make some Skyr.  I'm not at all sure how you're supposed to say it, but I say it like the y isn't there- like "scur."  I like saying it that way.  What is skyr, you may be asking?  I tried it on a whim- one of the people I follow on facebook is Minneapolis Real Food Lover.  She mentioned some locally produced skyr one day, mentioning it was like yogurt.  Then soon after that I was at The Wedge in Minneapolis (which is a place I've only been twice, it's not exactly in my hood) and happened upon said locally produced skyr, so I tried it.  And loved it.  More importantly, Izzy loved it.  Although I do have to say the girl likes her cultured dairy products.

I still haven't told you what it is yet.  It's not yogurt, but I wouldn't call it cheese either.  It's a hybrid.  It's yogurt made with rennet, or cheese that looks and tastes more like yogurt.  But that's not important.  It's good.  And it's only a tad more complicated to make than yogurt- and by a tad, I mean you add 5 drops of rennet, which I already have on hand from making cheese anyway.  Assuming you strain your yogurt, the process is the same (although one recipe I found also suggests you whip the skyr in your mixer after straining... we'll see if that actually happens).

We also got our clothesline back up.  The clothesline has been one of those things were I have been simultaneously chiding and congratulating myself.  You see, we had a clothesline.  It came with the house.  It was a perfectly sufficient three strand line.  But it was in back of the house, about as far away from the front (and only) door as you can get.  And it was constantly in the way when moving chicken tractors or mowing or just walking back there.  Plus it only got like three hours of sun a day- how much use is that?  The posts are cemented in, so they're still there, but I took the wires down a long time ago because we just weren't using it.  My plan was to put up a new one, but it got put off.  I didn't know exactly where anyway.  Then one day inspiration hit- off the side of the shed is an open area that gets more sun that any other part of the property near the house.  It's out of the way so it's not visible from the road (small thing, but important to me).  It's not right outside the door, but it's in an area I go to frequently for a number of other reasons, so it's efficient.  But then I put it off a little longer.  Then put the post in.  Then put it off more.  Finally I had my husband put the wires up.  All in all I moved the clothesline about 100 feet, and it's farther from the house (closer to the door, though).  But I like it better and use it, and that's all that matters!

And obviously I'm sleep deprived because I've hit that special place where I'm wordy and cheeky and think I'm hilarious, while in the mean time everyone has stopped listening.  Perhaps if I go to bed now I'll be able to formulate thoughts and create a coherant post tomorrow.  My plan is to dig some swales and the like, but the heat index is supposed to be off the charts, so odds are good I'll squeeze in some blogging.

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