Every year, we plant potatoes in our garden. I hated harvesting and felt like I was digging and digging and digging forever to get them out of the ground. Guess what?!?! For the last 3 years, we have been making potato towers using left over fencing, straw and potting soil and it works WONDERS!
Start with a spare piece of field fencing. Make a ring out of it. Next, line the bottom with about 6 inches of straw. Start making the straw into a birds nest. Add 16 quarts or so of potting soil into the center and continue to build up the side with straw.
On top of the soil, add 12 small planting potatoes (preferably with eye growth already) around the outside. Cover those potatoes with 16 more quarts of potting soil and add additional straw to the sides. The straw keeps the soil and the moisture inside the ring. Continue this same layering of soil and potatoes until you run out of potatoes. On the final top layer of potatoes, you can put a few in the center, cover with soil and then several inches of straw.
When watering, water the top of the tower until water seems out the bottom. After several weeks, you will see green plants beginning to grow out the sides and top of the tower. Do not worry! That is your potato plant. You can use a similar method win sweet potatoes too.
I will revisit my potatoes in about a month or so in the blog so that you can see the progress!
I was so intimidated by the thought of making cheese and of curds separating from the whey. I mean… Think about it…. curds and whey look like rotten milk. I promise you that it is not rotten and it is supposed to look like that!
I had no idea where to start, what to do. I ordered a kit to create soft goat cheese and then realized that it really wasn’t that hard. We have been making our own soft goats milk cheese for over a year now.
(Trystan’s tummy can handle anything with goats milk too!!! YEA!!)
Then I started researching how to make hard cheese. I needed a cheese press? WHAT IS A CHEESE PRESS?!?! I remembered that Homesteader Supply made their own and used to be a local business here in Arizona but have since moved to Tennessee. www.HomesteaderSupply.com is an AWESOME company and they carry one of the best presses out there. AND it is Made in the USA!
Once you discover how easy it is to make your own cheese (and do not have to add dyes in it to make it yellow), you will see that it is something that you can do for your family.
Mesophilic Culture (1/4 tsp Abiasa, 1/8 tsp Danisco, or 1/16 tsp Sacco) (We have been using Danisco because that is what I had on hand already)
2 teaspoons calcium chloride (only needed for store bought milk)
1.5 tablet rennet or 3/4 tsp liquid rennet
1/4 cup unchlorinated water
1 Tbsp salt
Combine milk, (calcium chloride) in 16 qt stock pot (double boiler to prevent scorching)
Slowly heat mixture to 86 degrees. Turn off heat and stir in lactic cheese culture. (Different types of culture create different flavors of cheese) Stir gently throughout. Cover mixture and allow to rest undisturbed at 86 degrees for 45 minutes.
Dissolve rennet tablet or liquid rennet in 1/4 cup water.
Keep the milk at 86 degrees. Stir the rennet mixture into milk slowly but thoroughly. Allow milk to set undisturbed for 30 – 45 minutes or until curd shows a clean break.
Using long knife, cut the curds into 1/2 inch squares, then stir gently just to break the strips of curds into chunks. Let it sit to rest for 5 minutes.
Slowly heat the curds and whey to 102 degrees, raising the temperature 2 degrees every 5 minutes. Stir curd gently to prevent matting and reduce their size to half peanut size. A large whisk works well by placing it to bottom of pot and putting up right so curds break as they fall through the wisk. Hold curds for additional 30 minutes at this temperature
Place pre-warmed with hot water colander over a pot and pour the curds into it.
Reserve 1/3 of the whey and pour back into the cheese pot. Set colander of curds onto the cheese pot. Cover top with cheese cloth and lid to keep in warmth. Allow curds to drain for 45 to 60 minutes. This is called the cheddaring process.
Cut slab into pieces and press through french fry cutter or cut by hand.
Add 1 tablespoon course salt. Using your hands, gently mix the salt into curds. You can eat these curds now, or press into a wheel.
Place the curds into cheese press and follow the directions for dressing with cheese cloth for the next 12 hours.
Remove cheese from press, unwrap the cloth, place cheese on drying mat to air dry for 12 hours, creating a nice skin over the whole cheese. Cheese is ready to slice and eat or you can wax and age for stronger cheddar flavor.
Mix 1 tablespoon of salt with 1/2 cup of water. Use a corner of the cheese cloth to lightly apply a saltwater wash to the cheese.
Happy 10th birthday to my Berlyn. I remember how scared I was when the doctors used the word, “autism.” They said you may never read or write or even talk in full sentences… And here you are, doing amazing at our homeschool program. You are smart, and funny. I love you SO MUCH!
This year, you even made the Special Olympics Equestrian team here local. You love Star Wars. And the other day, joked with me saying that you weren’t going to be 10, but will stay my little 3 year old boy forever.
We had another set of twins born this morning. Mama Pepper gave birth to 2 bucklings this morning in the middle of a snow lightning storm. These little boys are named Thunder and Lightning and are full blood, non-registered Nubians from Pepper and Mor Dubh. We are bottle feeding them.
Pepper is retiring this year and living out her life next door at my parents house with her BFF, Frankie the sheep.
So far this year, our count is 2 doelings and 2 bucklings.