Now that I’ve got homemade preserves to last until Doomsday, I need to eat them. They are delicious on toast, or scones, but I really love stirring a spoonful or two of preserves into a bowl of plain yogurt.
However, I am an actor on a budget, and yogurt (especially Greek yogurt – the kind I like) is expensive. I’m paying $6 for a 500g tub of yogurt, and I can easily eat that whole tub in three days. (Confession: I like to give some yogurt to the chickens every couple days, too).
Thank goodness for nearly-expired, discounted milk. Seriously. I bought bargain milk this week and made my own yogurt. It was surprisingly simple. Making yogurt is a great way to “preserve” milk. It doesn’t even have to be fancy organic milk or even whole milk – regular grocery store milk, skim or whatever, will work just fine.
Here’s the recipe I used (cobbled together from various internet sources):
- 2 litres of skim milk (or whatever is on sale)
- 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt (Can only contain milk, or cream, and active bacterial cultures. If it has sugar or aspartame in it, it won’t work. Once you’ve got your own yogurt on the go, be sure to save a couple tablespoons for your next batch!)
That’s it. Heat the milk to 170 F, then remove from the heat and let it cool to 110 F. Put some of the milk in a smaller bowl and whisk in the yogurt, then whisk the yogurt/milk mixture into the rest of the milk. Pour into warm quart jars and seal. Wrap them in towels and let them sit in a warm place for at least 8 hours. Done and done – you’ve made yogurt! Hurrah! It’ll keep in the fridge for about two weeks.
(If you’re a visual learner, check out this website for detailed instructions)
I remember reading a short story in high school, set in the future, where computers were used for everything and people had forgotten how to do the simplest things for themselves. Then one day, a man discovered he could do math in his head without his computer. At first he was amazed at his mental super powers, then he felt incredible freedom, and finally realized how powerful he could be if or when the computers failed.
It sounds so silly, but discovering how easy it is to make my own yogurt has been incredibly empowering. And when that Zombie Apocalypse comes, people will be banging down my door asking me to make yogurt for them. Well, probably not. We’ll probably be more concerned with killing zombies than making yogurt.
Now if only I had a goat to give me milk . . .
- Homemade Yogurt (tammyheff.wordpress.com)
- What’s Really in Your Greek Yogurt? 5 Surprising Ways Food Companies Cheat and Mislead Consumers (alternet.org)
- Eureka! Homemade Vegan Yogurt! (vegcharlotte.wordpress.com)
Two of my girls are sick. They’ve got some sort of respiratory thingy. I fed them hot oatmeal and yogurt this morning, and Greta and Liesl were sneezing like mad. I thought it was from the sticky yogurt, but then I heard Liesl wheezing. Then I noticed the bubbles in the corner of her right eye.
I had a mild freak out. I don’t deal well with sick animals. I panic. I think they’re dying.
Backyardchickens.com to the rescue. Opinions differ – some say chickens can get colds; others say, nope, chickens don’t get colds. It’s possible it could be a respiratory infection (infectious bronchitis), but more than likely it’s a virus, and all I can do is wait it out. I quarantined Liesl in the garage because her nose is really runny (poor thing). I gave her some Super Booster, which has vitamins, electrolytes and a small dose of penicillin, just in case she does have an infection. I bought some Stress-Aid for the other girls, which is just vitamins and electrolytes. Greta may have to be quarantined as well, depending on how she’s doing tomorrow. I guess at this point it really doesn’t matter – they’ve all been exposed.
The good news is that they’re all still lively and hungry and thirsty, so it can’t be that bad of an illness. Today, when I picked up Greta to examine her, Liesl pulled a total Karate Kid move and attacked poor Greta by jumping in the air, flapping her wings and raking Greta’s face with her nails. She must’ve thought I was holding that bitch down for her.
I hate having sick animals. I feel so powerless. How do I make them feel better?
But then when the snow does come, it’s really not so bad. In fact, it’s quite lovely. This year, it came so quietly, in big chunky, movie-set style flakes, and quite literally, put a hush on the city.
The dogs love it, and the chickens don’t seem to mind. I’ve read that chickens are snow blind, and won’t walk on freshly fallen snow because they can’t see. Not true of my girls. They came barreling out of the run and straight into the snow.
I made these little lovelies on Friday for an opening night reception at LiveFive. LiveFive is an independent theatre collective, and their first show of the season, Farragut North, opened this weekend. Will and I are doing a show with LiveFive later in the season (check out our website for more info), so they asked all the producing companies if they could provide a little something for the reception after the show. I just happened to have a ton of frozen rhubarb and some green apples in the fridge left over from jam making that I needed to use up. I started to make the pastry from scratch but got as far as the flour and butter and realized I didn’t have any eggs (hint, hint, chickens – time to start laying again). Thank goodness for frozen tart shells! I turned the aborted pastry attempt into a crumble topping by adding a bit of brown sugar.
Here’s the recipe for the filling (yields 30 tarts):
- 4 cups chopped rhubarb
- 2 cups chopped green apple
- 1 2/3 cups sugar
- 1/3 cup flour
Put it all in a saucepan over medium heat. No need to add any water; the rhubarb will release a lot of liquid. Heat the mixture just long enough to thicken. Remove from heat, spoon into the frozen tart shells, sprinkle the crumble on top, and bake at 400 F for 20 minutes until the tart shells are golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Broil for three minutes to brown the crumble. Remove and let cool. Eat five or six yourself before anyone else can get their grubby little paws on them.
I adore pumpkins. I try growing a new variety every year – warty pumpkins, ghost pumpkins, mini pumpkins. Even though I am 34 years old, if you visited my house on Halloween, you’d find me in the kitchen, carving my jack ‘o lanterns to put out on the front steps.
So I was absolutely devastated this summer when a giant wind storm tore my pumpkin vines right out of the ground. I cried. I haven’t had to buy a pumpkin in years. Tomorrow, I’ll do the next best thing to growing my own – I’ll go to the Farmers’ Market and buy a couple pumpkins.
Of course, I’ll do a traditional carved jack ‘o lantern, but I might try something a bit “alternative” this year, too.
- 10 Badass Jack-O’-Lanterns Courtesy Of L.A.’s Coolest Cats! (refinery29.com)
- The Most Amazing Geek-o’-Lanterns You’ll See All Week (geeksaresexy.net)
- Oh So Cool Pumpkin Ideas. (savedollarblog.com)
The first question most people ask when they find out we have chickens is, “How do you keep them warm in the winter?” We have serious winters here. It has been known to drop below -50 Celsius (sometimes even -60 with the wind chill). The normal temperature in January is about -25 C. Getting stuck outside during a Saskatchewan winter can kill you.
So I totally understand why people are concerned with how our chickens stay warm. I certainly was when we first got them.
Then I realized . . . they’re chickens.
The pioneers and homesteaders did not have electricity, but they had chickens. Also, chickens are not mammals. Just because you wouldn’t want to be outside in the winter wearing a feather sweater doesn’t mean that a chicken is freezing to death, or even uncomfortable.
We winterize our coop, but we do not heat it. Some people do, and that’s totally their choice. We specifically chose cold-hardy breeds of chickens that can handle low winter temperatures. If you do choose to heat the coop, and the power goes out, the chickens will die for sure. We decided to not take that risk. Also, having a heat lamp in the coop is a fire hazard.
Here’s what we’ve done to make the girls comfortable for the winter:
- insulate the coop and fill the bottom with a thick layer of wood chips;
- give them lots of straw in the nesting boxes to snuggle into;
- use a flat 2×4 as their roosting bar so that they can cover their feet with their feathers when they sleep;
- put a fluorescent light in the coop on a timer so that they get 16 hours of light per day;
- use a heated water dish to keep their water from freezing;
- staple a plastic barrier around the bottom of the coop to give them a shelter from the wind;
- tarp the run to keep the snow out;
- feed them cracked-corn scratch in the late afternoon (their body temperature goes up as they digest the corn);
- have enough chickens so that they can keep each other warm.
The most important thing we’ve found is to make sure there is enough ventilation in the coop. We close the window, but we never put anything in front of the door – it stays open all winter. Chickens can withstand the cold, but if the coop is humid, they will get frostbite. So even though it goes against all my instincts, we make sure there is plenty of airflow in the coop all winter.
The girls don’t seem to mind winter at all. In fact, they love to be let out to scratch in the snow and peck at the frozen soil and plants. Besides, there’s nothing cuter than chicken paw prints in the snow.
I’m a pole dancer. There. I said it. Phewww! That wasn’t so bad.
Let me make this clear right off the bat – pole dancing is NOT stripping. I pole dance for fun and fitness. I’m coming out of the pole closet now because starting at the end of October, I am going to be teaching Stage One pole dancing at ClubMynx! Three years ago, I signed up for my first class, and quickly fell in love. Not only is it super fun and challenging, it builds incredible upper body strength and is the reason I have gorgeously toned arms. I’m addicted. If you’re not familiar with modern pole dancing, watch this video of Jenyne Butterfly – she’s amazing. Pole dancing should really be an Olympic sport.
I just got a pole for my house. Yes, it’s destroying our ceiling, but I promised Will I’d fix it eventually (that “popcorn” ceiling stuff is so out of date anyway). I’m totally stoked that I can practice more than once a week now.
A few weeks ago, we corralled the chickens into the garden and let them scratch away at the soil to their hearts’ content. Little did they know they were actually breaking up clumps of dirt and spreading compost.
Last week, after we had finished most of the harvest, we released the girls again, but this time we let them free-range all day. As Will turned the soil over with a shovel, they immediately jumped in and started scratching away. Sometimes, they didn’t even wait for the shovel to get out of the way. They scratched, they pooped, they dirt-bathed, they stood at the garage and begged for scratch, and finally, they went to bed exhausted. It was fantastic.
After thousands of years of experiencing the deaths of our loved ones, why is it still so painful to say goodbye? Why have we not evolved to cope with death? How have all the pain and love and tears not made an imprint on our DNA?
My Baba passed away early Tuesday morning (“Baba” is Ukrainian for “Grandmother”). She was 90 years old. She was close to all her grandchildren – really, she gave us no choice. She was not one to sit at home and wait for someone to call her. She called us and arranged lunch dates, and maybe if there’s time, some BINGO? (She loved to gamble!) From her, I inherited my green eyes, and a love of gardening. She made the best perogies. Ever. She was a BINGO pro and sharp as a tack – not only did she play 12 or more cards herself, she would often lean over and dab numbers that I had somehow missed while playing my measly three cards.
Then again, maybe we have evolved to cope with death. Perhaps the painful experience of saying goodbye is essential to our human condition. Maybe it is only through the pain of letting go that we realize how deeply we loved.