Saturday, July 31, 2010

Demystifying Brie, Confessions of being lactose intolerant

During this process of refrigeless life I have gotten in touch with my inner little house on the prairie. There are about six billion people on the earth and a very large percent don't have refrigerators. What do they do and what did people do before our fancy technologies made life so simple?

They invite their friends to eat. I've started to become friends with them too. I've gotten pretty close to lacto bascilli, mesophillic m and many other single celled organisms that like to hang around. After scouring the internet and the raising goats section at the library this is what I found. What we now call cultured buttermilk is what used to be called cobbled milk, which is raw milk with a little extra acid (vinegar or lemon juice) sitting out for a few days that starts to get chunky aka cobbled. The cobbled milk is extremely tangy which is what gives chevre its distinctive taste.

When we first got our goat I was overwhelmed by the amount of milk we had to figure out something to do with everyday, without being able to refrigerate it. Now she's a modest milker giving about a gallon a day which is a lot of milk for two people to drink in one day. I'm lactose intolerant which is a big shade of gray because well like everything else in life we're all different. My favorite food is ice cream and I can eat some ice cream brands Hagan Daz but not others like Ben and Jerry's because of the different processes and ingredients they use. With a little yogurt before consuming any dairy product everything goes much smoother...well maybe actually more solid. Anyways we have all this milk and I refuse to waste it and even though the fat and sugar molecules are smaller and more digestible in goat milk than cows milk a gallon a day is still a lot for a non-traditional milk drinker; Our solution was to make it into cheese and other pre-digested goodies.

The easiest cheese to make is farmer cheese, cottage cheese's older less creamy sister. Its quick and easy and doesn't leave you worrying about the milk getting to warm and becoming suspiciously thick. But after a few days of bland lightly salted cheese I start to get anxious for sharp cheddar, aged gouda, and pepper jack.

After mastering the art of making good rotten milk the next step was to take the ultimate plunge into luxury and make the high priestess of cheeses, brie.

Before I started my voyage into firm outside and gooey middleness I was intimidated. Could I, a semi-lactose intolerant womyn make such a delicatessen food without buying fancy bacteria starters and no fridge? Well yes, making brie is really simple. All you have to do is make some farmer cheese and after you've poured off the whey mix in some meso culture or ripe brie and place in a mold, in my case a coffee can with holes, and let sit in a cool place for about a month. Who knew such a gourmet food would be so simple?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Our Baby Lamb

Photo from the archive. Here's a pic of our baby lamb from the beginning of April. So cute eh?

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Bumblebee hurt my feelings

Today I was stung by a bumblebee. I have been under the impression that they are the gentle giants of the bee world until today. I was driving home from a day of volunteering at Pajaro Valley High School’s free veggies and meet a lamb day when I felt an intense burning-stinging sensation in my back. I searched frantically with my fingertips around my shoulder blade in the spot that you cant really reach with either arm in any direction trying to figure out what was causing such a great pain. I drove the last 2 winding miles home with my arm wrapped around myself squeezing the area trying to reduce the pain. When I stopped to open the gate I felt up my shirt trying once more to find a clue to my stinging shoulder blade. Still I found nothing until I felt a tickle on my arm and ferociously brushed off the culprit in a panic. I looked down to inspect the critter and was shocked that it was a bumblebee. I felt betrayed. Not only had a factual pillar been shattered but so were my feelings. Why was I stung? An advocate of bees who provides diverse nutritious nectars to drink and had boldly stated that bumblebees don’t sting.

I watched the damaged body quiver from the swat while my heart sank. My sadness was rudely interrupted by a throbbing in my back so I left the bee to die alone to take care of the wound it left on me. To soothe a bee sting or bug bite; apply either a tincture or poultice of dry or fresh Echinacea to a cotton ball and then tape to the sting until the swelling has reduced. Today I emptied out a capsule of dried Echinacea to some water and just rubbed it on, since I don’t have any of the other materials for a proper poultice, which relieved the pain immediately.
I’m still not sure how the bee got into my shirt in the first place and am willing to believe that bumblebees don’t actively sting as much as wasps but at least I know that Echinacea can reduce the discomfort of bug bites and stings.

An Introduction to Eating Wild Plants

I am a nature geek, not as geeky as the families who go hiking with matching kaki outfits and defy the fashion gods by wearing socks with sandals but I share their enthusiasm for catching blue belly lizards, geological history and spotting red-tailed hawks. One thing we probably don't share is my dis-concern for following the rules. I know that when you visit state and national parks you are supposed to take only memories and leave only footprints. Its not a bad rule when there are over 300 people to every square mile shit is going to get fucked up...Not like it isn't already, almost 95% of the California grasses are invasive, the red fox is killing of the snowy plover like its nobodies business and there are no predators of poison hemlock. Anyways you have to work with what you've got and we have a very limited mostly non-native landscape filled with delectable and not-so delectable eats and I'm going to tell you about some of them and what I've learned.

Before we dive into the excitement of foraging wild foods I will warn you eating things you find can be dangerous. Make sure you have a100% identification before you put anything in your mouth. A good rule I have is identify something thrice (on separate occasions) before it touches my tummy. Here are some things to keep in mind when exploring the world of medicinal and edible plants:

This product was produced in a factory that also processes tree nuts. Just like some people are allergic to strawberries some people's bodies may disagree with other plants so you might try a little and make sure you aren't surprised with an impromptu colonic.

The potato was not always delicious. Not all plants are edible and not all parts of plants are edible. The potato is in the nightshade family, which is poisonous, it has been cultivated for thousands of years to be the crispy fries we know today, its leaves are still toxic.

Not all digestive tracts are created equal.
Just because another animal eats something doesn't mean we can. Deer, sheep, goats and many others find the young leaves of poison oak quite a treat but for us could be very unpleasant.

Conservative thinking has a time and place.
You don’t eat ten pounds of broccoli at a time there is no reason to go nuts over braken fern leaves either. Start conservative and work your way up to larger amounts, again so you don’t loose your lunch or anything else.

Know your food.
Prior to your voyage on preparing wild food I suggest when eating something for the first time just lightly sauté it in some olive oil to get a sense of what it tastes like and you aren't shocked that the nettles didn't cook up exactly the same way as the spinach normally does in your famous casserole.

Another tidbit about wild food is that much of it is wild for a reason. Things become domesticate because they are delicious, texturally acceptable and are easy to harvest. So whether you are a dooms-dayer preparing yourself for the apocalypse or just want to impress a hot date rooting around outside for tasty treats is fun and a good reason to go outside. Don’t be discouraged if you can't make it to Yellowstone or Yosemite that you wont find anything cool. Nature is everywhere, including the empty lot down the street from your house. When venturing in the mean city streets beware of invisible demons on plants found in urban areas. A good rinse can rid some of them like dog pee and some pesticides however some are embedded deep in the phylum of the plant and cannot be washed off, like heavy metals from the ground. But the park near your house or your neighbors lawn is a good place to start to familiarize yourself with grasses, trees and some herbs or flowers until you can make it to the great outdoors.

So here’s the dealio:

Part 1

Now I'm not going to go in any particular order that may make sense to you but it makes sense to me because it will be my successes. I've been eating weeds for a while and there have been a lot of failures. Not missed identifications failures but cooking failures. When was the last time you read a recipe that called for goose foot, hounds tongue and rattle snake grass? Or did I just miss the section in The Joy of Cooking on how long to roast the soap plant bulb for? Yeah, that's what I thought. I've suffered a lot of texture violations for you're eating ease.

Part 2

You may also want to know the layout. It will start with a common name followed by more common names and then a scientific name in italics. Then a description including habitat and uses with a lovely picture taken by my mountaneering man Dusty Jensen. And finally a tried and tested recipe I deem worthy of your digestive tract from the collection to the preparation. There may also be some other uses for wounds, dyes or underwater basket weaving thrown in too. On to the goodies...

Sunday, July 18, 2010


This is Taj. Not my horse but I get to ride her.

More Easily Stored Veggies

One of my goals of the homestead is to approach food self sustainability. I was just looking at my garden and thinking about winter and I think I need a lot more food that is easily stored. Corn, beans, potatoes, onions.

I guess I'll need to start thinking about how to store them too.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Principles Vs. Lifestyle

Thomas Jefferson says, "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock," and it sounds about right to me.

Why live this lifestyle? There are several reasons, but high on the list is my principles. I don't want to drop out of society, but I how can I live a lifestyle if I don't agree with cumulative effects of the lifestyle. I can't claim that my lifestyle is perfect, but that's the purpose of this blog and our homestead -- Is it possible to live a life dictated by principles?


Hi! We're Mali and Dustin (and Mr. Lambie). Nice to meet you and thanks for stopping by. We live in a Yurt in on 40 acres of redwoods in the hills above Santa Cruz, California. We moved out here because we wanted a more simple life and a have closer relationship with our food. On a deeper level we were becoming sick of the excess of the Western lifestyle and we wanted a chance to ponder, examine, and experiment with the lifestyle we wanted to live. The goal of this blog to document our thoughts and experiments and to facilitate a discussion with others. So please comment and let us know what you think.

Mali and Dustin (and Mr. Lambie)