Stasia's Place Of Grace


Friday, March 11, 2005


The Cheese Stands Alone

I made a cheese! It is supposed to be a cheddar. Let's hope it fares better than my disintegrating mozzarella and feta of recent weeks (they did not do well in brine solutions! But they tasted really good when I initially finished them.)

The cheddar has to air dry for a few days now, so it is in the only temperature- and humidity-controlled environment I could find - the music room. Here he is with a sensor from our weather station monitoring his condition:

A couple more days and I'll coat him with cheery red wax.

Cheesemaking is not a simple hobby. We don't have a cheese press, so we had to rely on a pottery wine cooler stuffed with lead shot in order to press the cheese in its mold and extract the whey. We're trying not to buy additional equipment - what good is it to make your own cheese if you're going to spend more on equipment than you ever would on cheese for the next ten years? But I think this is one activity where you can't really scrimp on the accoutrements... or the ingredients, so I'm seeking out local raw (unpasteurized) milk sources and using organic milk and cream in the meantime.

    Who was it who said, "Beware of all ventures requiring new clothes"? Twain, Emerson? They were probably speaking about new hobbies requiring new equipment as well. My library of quilt books, stash of sewing fabrics, and assemblage of unusual accessories has expanded of late, necessitating additional Rubbermaid "wool" tubs and a new, handmade wrist pincushion in the Cathedral Windows pattern...

    ...and now I find (imagine) I require a little, organizational "stitching envelope", sewn and embroidered on wool-felt, designed by Crabapple Hill. (Be sure to read her Artist's Statement on her home page for inspiration!)

    After looking all over the Internet for the required fabric, wouldn't you know, they had it at my local Joann's?

I had to buy a silicone pastry brush for my cheese wax, and a stainless steel hand colander... but I am desperately trying not to succumb to presses, followers, weights, forms, and other cheesy things as I have no room in my kitchen.

If you're interested in learning to make cheese, you can get kits from Lehman's (I just got some maple sugar tree-tappin' spigots from them!) or try here.

Why am I making cheese? I can no longer do hippotherapy because my body can't handle it any longer. :-( A recent, scary trip to the doctor involving x-rays and orders for a CT scan made me realize that I had better just be grateful for having the chance to ride again, and give up while I was ahead (and before I ended up in traction). Now I understand how old people who have to give up their drivers' licenses feel! (I haven't been updating my Blog or participating in discussion groups because I haven't been able to sit very much. No, I did not injure my butt on the horse - it is my old back injury kicking up again.) ;-)

After a few really depressing weeks during which I carefully saddle-soaped my beloved, recently-acquired equipment and put it all away for storage, put all my books and silly plastic model horses out of view, and removed all horse-related books from my Amazon wishlist, I realized I needed something to get me out of the doldrums.

So I decided to focus on things I could do now without getting hurt.

About the same time, I happened upon some books on Tasha Tudor, and was inspired to make cheese, yogurt, and butter, learn to make baskets, learn to quilt (well, that was mostly thanks to Pamela's Omiyage influence!), and attempt various other activities of self-sufficiency. I resubscribed to a local organic farm delivery, bought a canner contraption, have read some Amish cookbooks, and am determined to learn to preserve foods this year.

I'll tell you this - I don't know how Tasha Tudor does it. Going over jumps on horses seems infinitely easier than making one's own clothes and food every single day!

Still, I am finding much more meaning in these activities - there is nothing like the taste of homemade butter on home baked bread. The effort of churning and kneading gives you a good appetite (so sue me if I use my KitchenAid, it is still a lot of work!), and somehow, you appreciate the eating more (and cherish the food and therefore eat less - not a bad thing, now that I'm no longer getting exercise by riding, not to mention cheating with kitchen appliances!)

I did replace all those horsey wishlist books with cheesemaking and cow rearing and raw milk information books, and things are looking up. :-)

I even knit two rounds on my pink Cashmerino Aran top-down raglan t-neck last night - after not touching my knitting in weeks (I told you I was depressed!)

And hopefully I will have a nice picture of a little, practice quilt made of flannel (for Fiona, at Jeff's request) to show you soon!

Speaking of Fiona, she had surgery this week - am I ever not taking someone to the vet for an operation? Three dogs in as many months - lets hope Chester doesn't need anything done in April! Luckily, the moles Fi had removed were benign and the incisions are causing her no trouble at all - something for which we are extremely grateful.

Fi was quite angry, though, that there was no room for her to sunbathe - just look at her expression!

Like all of us, she is anxious for the snow to melt and for the warmth of spring to arrive.

Shoppie Sites Of The Day

I just found out Kundert Spindles has a new website, and did you know that Kary has a CafePress store featuring Klaudette, The Knotty Sheep?

Get ready for spring insects now, while you can - my sister gave me one of these for Christmas, and I have to tell you, this thing is the best! It is humane and it works!

Here At Meadowview...

There was a northern harrier hawk visiting today, perched for some time on the park bench outside my window, during an afternoon snowstorm. After some time, he hopped to the ground and looked carefully behind each of three small evergreen bushes in our landscaping, as if he'd lost something. So strange to see a bird like that jogging around on land like a chicken! This was in an area where I feed the songbirds, so no doubt he must check in here daily for "easy pickin's". My presence didn't faze him one bit - he was on the prowl and wasn't giving up. Lucky for me, as I was entranced at seeing him!

I watched him hunt about for ten minutes or so, until he flew away, low and silent and smooth through the bare-branched orchard, scattering frantic mourning doves from our woods as he passed. The thick snowflakes continued to fall as he flew north.

There is a bit of winter yet here in Wisconsin... and I am trying to soak in the last of its beauty.

Snowdrops are up in the yard. Roses seem to all have been eaten, but hopefully they'll come back. Glad the bunnies had something to munch while it was so cold.

Tomorrow we go to Lael's to pick up Sparx's 2005 fleece. Guess I'd better get another Rubbermaid tub...

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Stasia is a knitter, spinner, weaver, writer, reader, and musician from Wisconsin, USA.

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