Finding Focus?

A lovely little frog has taken up residence in our little pond!

Did you ever have one of those days where focus just evades you? It seems lately that my attention is being pulled in so many directions: I feel like a cartoon character (you know when they ‘wind’ up their feet to start running, but they are just spinning their wheels in one place?!).

It’s one of those moments in life; I can see a vague, foggy outline of where I’m headed but for now it’s just trusting that the next step will lead me to where I want to go!

I told you in my last post that Jason and I had both gone off farm to work to pay the bills. I am working as chef to a preschool/private Kindergarten. I love to cook, but I must admit to being a little ambivalent about this job. It’s a big job—me alone in the kitchen feeding 150 people (kids and teachers) 2 snacks and a full lunch, along with all the associated clean up and ordering of food and supplies. And for July, August and September I’ve been cooking a menu that someone else decided on—not easy to do—and it seriously disturbs me to feed these kids processed chicken nuggets and fish sticks and all the ‘typical’ school lunch junk.

As of the October menu, though, I have a big opportunity. They have handed the menu planning over to me. I now plan the menu for my school as well as our sister school with 150 more mouths to feed! I’m excited about the opportunity to influence the food choices and health of that many people, but it is a daunting task to find that ‘sweet spot’ or balance of (1) finding recipes that are quick and easy to prepare on a large scale, (2) making the meals balanced according to government standards as well as healthy to my standards, (3) finding recipes that they will actually eat, and (4) doing all of this on a reasonable budget (this is, after all, a business to our owners—it’s how they house, feed, and clothe their own family).

So, . . . I’m not sure how all of this will play out in the coming months, but I would love to try and record my reflections and experiences here on the blog. I’d love to hear comments and suggestions from all of you as well, if you’re so inclined! That ‘foggy’ vision of the future? Well, it appears to be taking the shape of food, economy, and back to the basics—just where we are headed with the farm; that’s why I’m including my ‘non-farm’ job here on the farm blog. Raven Mist or preschool; it’s all about basic, simple, economically sound, healthy food!

On to the farm goings on! I’ve been playing around for the last few weeks learning to make our own yogurt. Here are the step by step photos of the batch I made this week:

Pour 1 gallon of milk (any milk of your choice) into a pot on med/low heat

Heat to 185. This readys the proteins to be digested by the culture.

Put pan in cold water bath in sink. Cool to around 110. Any hotter than that will kill the bacteria in the culture.

Stir in your active culture. Use 4 T per 1 gallon of milk. You can use any plain, unflavored yogurt from the store to begin–just make sure it has live, active cultures. I used a Greek version with 5 cultures. After this first batch, just save a few tablespoons and use that.

I then pour mine into a large glass Mason jar, set in a hot water bath in the sink. The temperature needs to remain between 90 and 110 to keep the cultures warm and working!

I cover the whole thing with a thick bath towel to keep the heat in. I change the water to reheat it once or twice. It needs to sit for about 7 hours.

After 7 hours, it’s nice and thick!

If you like thinner yogurt, you’re all done! I like mine thick, Greek style, so I line a strainer with a clean piece of muslin or a tea towel and drain over a pot for an hour or so until it’s nice and thick.

This is what it looks like with the whey drained.

Left-over whey. Don’t throw it out! We feed ours to the chickens–they love it! It give them a little extra protein boost. No chickens? Pour it on the compost pile or use it to bake with!

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6 thoughts on “Finding Focus?

  1. Glad to hear that the new job is going good – I am excited for you about planning the meals! The yogurt looks amazing – you should also try making cheese, I don’t think that it is much different.

    ~Natalie

      • What type of cheese did you make (hard/soft)? Did you like it and would you do it again? I’ve thought about giving cheese making a shot, but I’m still on the fence.

      • I made a soft, farm-style cheese. Harder than cream cheese, but not really sliceable. And YES, I will try again. I’m in the process of looking up recipes and doing more research. All you need to get started is a culture (I used yogurt with live cultures) and rennet. I bought it online for $6.50 for enough to do 48 gallons of milk. Small investment to play around and figure it all out. And bonus: if you screw it up, the chickens love it!

  2. School lunches? did I read right. I would Love that job, being able to feed all those kids decent, fun, healthy food is a dream for me.. i am very impressed.. i make a fresh farm cheese about twice a week and when i screw it up the pigs get it!! it is very tasty and good.. c

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