I’m the first one up this morning. It’s three degrees outside, though it sounds better in celsius: -16. My husband got up during the night to put more wood on the fire so the house isn’t too cold. I love cold weather. The hunkered down feeling is so satisfying.
We didn’t do our normal Christmas tree this year. I’m a little weary of spending so much money just to cut down a live tree — it almost feels sad. So instead I picked up a holly bush at a local nursery. It’s the size of a small tree and it’s kinda shaped like one, though the branches poke out at weird angles in places. We strung it with white lights. I was thinking strands of popcorn would be nice, and my daughter wanted to add slices of dried citrus, but then we didn’t get any further. My son was in an uproar that we didn’t cut a real tree, but then he pronounced it good so I guess it’s okay.
Our traditions are changing. We spent the first few years establishing them, and then the next few years maintaining them, and now we’re shifting. Paring down. Reevaluating. Since the kids are older, they can take on some of the responsibility. Example: I don’t feel like making iced butter cookies and they’re bummed about that so I say, Why don’t you make them? And then when they don’t, it tells me they don’t actually care about the butter cookies enough to go to the trouble of making them so why should I? (Of course, that’s not completely true — they do have an emotional attachment to the butter cookies. But that doesn’t mean they’re necessary.)
Part of me misses carrying the full weight of making the Christmas magic, but another part of me is quite happy to let go. I know if I kept pushing myself at this stage in the parenting game, I’d probably end up resenting everyone. So tonight we’ll go to church for the Christmas eve service and I’ll wear the extremely warm dress I wore for last year’s winter wedding, and then we’ll come home and have our cheese feast. I scaled back on the cheese part of it since I’m (temporarily) a little cheese fatigued. But yesterday I realized that one of my Bries is ready to eat, and then my daughter-in-law agreed to bring her killer sticky rice squares with shrimp and seaweed and I made meatballs and a double batch of eggnog and my mom is bringing cut veggies, so I guess it’s not really scaled back after all.
We still don’t know what we’re having for Christmas dinner, though. My younger son wants a ham. My husband says hamburgers. I’d like something basic yet fancyish like a caramelized onion galette and a salad. What are you having?
I’ve tried a number of Asiago cheeses, and this Rosemary Asiago is by far my favorite: easy, straight-forward, delicious. I’ve made it a number of times, including for the YouTube channel, and I keep meaning to do a proper write-up of the recipe. Finally, I am.
For a straight Asiago, simply omit the rosemary rub. You can use partially-skimmed milk for a harder cheese, or use whole milk and add in even more cream for a softer, more moist cheese. The original recipe called for 1 ½ teaspoons of rennet, but I dialed it back. To see me do a comparison taste test between two rosemary Asiagos, go here.
7½ gallons whole raw milk 1 teaspoon calcium chloride diluted in ½ cup water, optional if using raw milk 1½ cups yogurt, thinned with a couple cups of the milk 1 teaspoon rennet saturated salt brine ¼ cup chopped fresh rosemary ½ cup olive oil
Heat the milk to 95 degrees. Stir in the diluted calcium chloride. Add the thinned yogurt and stir well. Let the milk ripen for about 30 minutes.
Dilute the rennet with about a half cup of cool water and add to the milk. Stir for no more than one minutes. Cover and let rest for about 25 minutes, or until the curd gives a clean break.
Cut the curds into roughly 1-inch columns (or cubes, if you’re overachieving) and let rest for 5 minutes to set up. Then, cut the curds with a balloon whisk — final curds should be about ¼ inch cubes — and let rest for another five minutes.
With your hand, or a large spoon, gently stir the curds for about 10 minutes to make sure they’re all broken up to the right size. (If the pot is too full, remove some of the whey.) Over the course of the next 25-30 minutes, heat the curds to 106 degrees, stirring steadily. Now, heat the curds a little more quickly: to 118 degrees over the next 10 minutes. If needed, continue to gently stir the curds in the whey, off heat, for 20 minutes. (I don’t usually do this last step — generally my curds are done cooking right around 116 degrees.)
Let the curds rest for 5 minutes to settle to the bottom. Pour off the whey. Transfer the curds to the mold. Press at about 30 pounds of pressure for 20-30 minutes. Flip, and press for another 30 minutes at 30 pounds. Flip, and press at 40 pounds for 1 hour. Flip and press at 40 pounds for about 12 hours.
Brine the cheese in a saturated salt brine for about 24 hours (4-5 hours per pound of cheese), flipping halfway through and salting the exposed surface. Air dry the cheese for a day or two, flipping morning and night
Mix the chopped rosemary with oil and heat in the microwave for about a minute to sterilize the herbs. Rub it all over the cheese. (I had to cut my cheese in half to fit it in the bag. I put both halves in the bag and then added the rosemary and oil and smooshed it around.)
Vac-pack the cheese and age at 55 degrees for 2-12 months, flipping weekly.
Candying… my own orange rinds that I scrounged from the diner’s juicer. (Don’t worry, Mom! I haven’t lost all my sense of thriftiness.)
Struggling… to accept that I can’t do all the things I want to. When the kids were little the days dragged endlessly, but now that they’re older the days are all mine for the having. I wish they were twice as long.
Keeping a running tally… of all the projects I wish I had more time for, such as cookie baking, book writing, cheesemaking, filming, blogging, acting, bakery shifts, kickboxing, homeschooling, reading, teaching (via filming/in-person classes), listening to podcasts, business development (based on one or more of the above-mentioned projects), and learning new things like watercoloring and cake decorating.
Dreaming… of a personal assistant to do all the little tasks that suck up my time like video editing, graphic design, recipe writing, and proofing. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a creativity support person?
Considering… getting a living (potted) Christmas tree instead of cutting down a live one. Our local tree farm has been short on trees lately, and I kinda like the idea of creating a little evergreen forest with a collection of our used Christmas trees. At $80 a tree, they’re pretty expensive, but look at it this way: since a cut farm tree is $50, we’d actually be getting a brand new, live-forever tree for the rock-bottom price of $30.
Discovering… cool, new kitchen tools thanks to my day of staging at Cou Cou Rachou, a French bakery in Charlottesville that is TOTALLY worth a food pilgrimage, if you dig that sort of thing (check out the English muffins!). They used this cool little dohicky to core apples — I had no idea such a thing existed and it’s exactly what I’ve been wanting — and I was all sorts of enamored by their little tart pans (they don’t use the bottom piece), shallow sieves for sifting spices, and plastic lids for sheet pans.
Savoring… my leisurely (yet highly structured!) days in front of the fire working on all my various projects.
Boycotting… putting my clothes away. Since we have no good space for storing off-season clothing, I’ve been begging my husband to build a bed box with drawers — but he won’t. So now all my summer clothes are in a neat pile on the floor, waiting for him to put them away. My theory is that he’s more likely to fix the problem if it bothers him.
Hoping… that this last visit from Mr. Big Balls has been profitable. My husband injected both Emma and Butterscotch with Estrumate to bring them into heat, and we’re keeping the bull for an extra month to follow up, hoping that if if the magic didn’t happen the first time, he’ll make it right when they cycle round again.
Questioning… the value of our choice in piggies. This breed was supposed to be grazers, not rooters, but turns out they dig things up a-plenty, making a huge mess of the field and putting my husband in a foul temper. That they’re slow growers means we’ll have to tolerate their rooty behavior and throw food scraps at them for just that much longer. Would it be more profitable and efficient to raise regular meat pigs? Or will the flavor of these wee-uns be noticeably better? We’ll see….
Pondering…the new cinnamon roll hack that involves pouring heavy cream over the cinnamon rolls prior to baking. Have you tried it? Should I?
Recently, when making Jarlsberg-style cheese, I’ve been ending up with tiny, random eyes, or none at all — so last time I made it, I decided to skip the vac-packing. Maybe the tight bag was hindering proper eye development? (Never mind that all my earlier successful Jarlsbergs had been vac-packed. Stick with me here.) Since I was making my Full Moon Blue at the same time I was making the Jarlsberg, I popped the Jarlsberg in one of my plastic tubs and stuck it in the bottom of the cheezer, as far away from the Blue as possible.
However — problem number one — it got contaminated anyway.
I let it go for a bit, and then after a few weeks I gave it a good scrubbing with a (clean) toothbrush, diluted apple cider vinegar, and salt. And then I placed the cheese on the dresser in the downstairs bedroom — on a cheese mat with a food tent over top — to air dry.
Everything was fine and dandy for a few weeks, until one day I noticed that the tent cover was askew. Weird, I thought as I straightened it. But the next day it was once again wonky. This time I looked more closely and (problem number two) — A MOUSE.
Or signs of a mouse, rather. The little critter had chewed a hole through the netting, chowed down on the cheese, and left turds on the dresser. I was indignant.
(And also a little bit delighted because: mice really do like cheese! How cute!)
I trimmed out all the cheese-munched parts and, once again, scrubbed the whole thing with vinegar and salt, and then I tasted it and — problem number three — the rind tasted like a scented pineapple candle! I’d had a pineapple scented candle sitting atop the dresser beside the cheese, and the scent had leached into the cheese. The inside of the cheese, however, tasted absolutely magnificent — nutty and sweet, mildly Swissy, and just generally more complex than most of my cheeses — so I cut the rind off the entire cheese, vac-packed the wedges, and popped them into the cheese fridge.
And there you have it: the story of a cheese that battled mold, mice, and scented candles and emerged victorious.
Cheese: it’s tougher than it looks. Be like cheese.
Since getting married last December, my older son and daughter-in-law bought a small school bus that they then converted into their home. Now that they’ve had a few months to live in it, I asked if I might interview them about the experience, and they said yes. Enjoy!
Where did you get the idea to live in a bus? Jonathan: Several years ago I worked with someone who had converted a school bus into a motorhome, or “skoolie.” He showed me pictures of his build and immediately I was hooked. I loved the idea of living in a space that had the luxury of being mobile and having everything I needed in a space hardly larger than a walk-in closet. When I met Hannah in 2021, even though she had heard of skoolies, she had never considered building one, but little by little my enthusiasm rubbed off on her. A few months later when we got married, our main wedding gift request was for money to buy our own bus.
Hannah: During our first meeting, Jonathan spontaneously called a friend to ask if they would paint his bus — that of which he did not have. His impulsiveness left me curious. Was he actually going to make this idea a reality? But then a few weeks after our wedding, a friend told us about a short, six-window bus that had been already built out. Two weeks later, after some deliberation and a thorough inspection by a diesel mechanic, the bus was sitting in our driveway. Fast forward many months and here we are! Living out a dream.
At what point did you decide to actually live in the bus? Jonathan: Full-time living in the bus wasn’t on my radar in the beginning. I assumed Hannah couldn’t possibly love me enough to want to live together in exactly 105 square feet, and I would have been happy enough just using it as a fancy camper van. However, it was Hannah who first broached the idea of living in it fulltime. That was about two months after we got married, and the lease for our apartment would be up in August, about seven months later. We started renovations immediately.
In the past when I tackled projects like building a clubhouse, I’d charge forward with no plan, no money, few resources, and intermittent determination. The end result was usually half-assed and held no resemblance at all to what I’d had in mind. The difference with this project was that I had money to draw from and a distinct deadline with the prospect of temporary homelessness . . . and I had Hannah.
How did you come up with the design? Hannah: We spent countless hours sketching and dreaming. (I may have requested a full washroom with a mini tub, tiled kitchen walls, a guest bed for two, and a greenhouse, ha!) Having the previous owner’s appliances allowed us to experiment with different arrangements. From the get-go, we knew we’d need a spacious kitchen since it would host nearly all our indoor routines.
We wanted an open floor plan with two distinct living spaces. It took a lot of internet browsing, a roll of tape to mark things out, and several arguments, but we finally settled on a layout: the bed in the back of the bus, the kitchen/dining area towards the front, and a wall between the two. Once we’d established those two main sections, we created the rest of the build — the L-shaped counter, the shelving for clothing, the fridge nook — as we went along.
under the seats: inverter, transfer switch, charge controller, etc (left) and batteries, toaster, Bananagrams, etc (right)
Why did you choose to buy a bus that had already been converted instead of a bus that hadn’t had anything done to it? Primarily circumstance. Since we learned about the bus through a mutual friend, we felt like we were buying from people we could trust. The previous owners had driven it across the country a couple times and were confident in its mechanical condition. (The mechanic said the bus was in pristine condition and estimated its value to be at least 10K — their asking price.) Also, we thought we’d be able to reuse a lot of the previous owners’ appliances and furniture, which would save costs.
So you didn’t reuse their things after all? Since we’d be living in the bus, we needed appliances that would hold up to daily use, and their water heater, water tank, mini kitchen sink, etc, didn’t quite meet our needs. The stove, for example, was a basic camper stove without much insulation, and we wanted a full-size sink. (We are still using the previous owners’ bed, gray water system, propane tank, ceiling insulation, and pink bus color.) It would have been cheaper and saved us a ton of time if we had just gone ahead and purchased the appliances we wanted in the first place instead of trying to reuse everything, because we essentially ended up installing things two or three times.
What are some things that you’re most proud of, or that were most challenging? Jonathan: For such a small space, the bus feels quite large. This is primarily due to the many windows, but also because we divided the bus into the two distinct spaces.
On the outside, we added steel strips above the windows as a sort of makeshift gutter. I was skeptical about how well they were going to work — it was one of those ideas I had where I was like . . . maybe? — but they work great. We can even keep the windows halfway open in heavy downpours!
We made all of our shelves open, partially because that made them easier to build, but also because we didn’t know where we’d store things and we wanted flexibility. (My grandparents gifted us many beautiful pieces of wood, including the cedar for our clothing shelves and the oak for the kitchen shelves. All the wood was harvested from their property, so it means a lot to have it in our home.)
The cherry table top took me quite some time to finish. We have an electric stand for the table’s pedestal that can go from 12 to 32 inches with the press of a button. When it’s up, we have a table with booth seating; when it’s down, we have a couch. We wanted the table to be deeper than the couch when in “table mode” so I built an extra-deep table top, cutting off one end and then reattaching it with a piano hinge on the underside. To make it foldable, I fashioned two gate hinges that, when extended, support the end flap. When folded, the flap is flush with the booth seating. The result is a beautiful, sturdy table, or a comfortable couch — whichever we like!
How much has this project cost? Jonathan: So far, we’ve spent just under $24,000. The bus itself cost $10,000, and we’ve spent about $1500 in tools, $4000 in materials, and $7000 on the appliances, such as the kitchen stove, wood stove, and solar. While we were actively building out the bus, we were able to set set aside $800-1800 each month (the max we could afford), but now that we’ve purchased and installed most of the necessary components, that monthly amount has dropped. We hope we won’t have to invest more than $25,000 or $26,000 in total. My grandparents graciously loaned us some money so we could buy our solar kit and stove, but other than that, we haven’t had to borrow anything, other than a few of my dad’s tools.
So the appliances in the bus are powered on solar? Yes! We purchased the Renogy 800-Watt Solar Kit which came with solar panels, a charge controller, wire and connectors, and a bluetooth solar monitor that monitors in real time the amount of electricity we are gaining. We also purchased a 3000 watt inverter, a battery monitor, two lithium batteries (for a total of 500 amp hours), and reused the former owners’ 30 amp transfer switch, a nifty little gadget that automatically switches the power to an electrical hookup when we plug in the bus. When the days are long, we are easily able to power our water heater and pump, lights, fans, phones and laptops, and any appliances such as a toaster, coffee pot, and instapot. Recently, given the position of the bus, the trees around us, and the angle of the sun, we only get about two hours of direct sunlight a day, so we end up plugging in for a day or two each week.
You’ve been living in the bus for over four months now. How do you like it? Hannah: Lil Peach is definitely the coziest place I have ever lived. A year ago I would have never thought that living in 100 sq ft would be so fulfilling. Jonathan and I are still waking up with smiles on our faces, grateful to one another for making this bus a home. However, we have struggled to find a rhythm for laundry. Because our space is so limited, soaking my reusable pads is a nightmare. We bounce around our social circles for washer and dryer access, yet during that special time of the month, our weekly laundry haul just isn’t enough.
before the wood stove was installed, trying to stay warm
Jonathan: I still find myself amazed at how comfortable this place is. The bus is pretty much a glammed-up clubhouse. It’s so, so small, but small doesn’t mean uncomfortable or claustrophobic. Everything we use on a daily basis fits inside the bus quite nicely; and we have little need for a space any larger than this. However, we aren’t a special couple: we do have times where we can hardly stand to look at one another. On those days, our bus only has room for one, and the other usually goes outside for a while.
Where do you store your extra stuff? The bus is parked next to a woodshed. The owners let us store some of our things there.
How do you shower? Hannah: We never built the full washroom with a mini bathtub that I dreamed of! Instead, when we first started living in the bus, we used the kitchen sink hose which made showering a messy, two-person ordeal: one person held the hose out the bus window and sprayed the showering person standing outside. Recently, however, we installed a proper outdoor shower-rig that is supposedly freeze-proof (fingers crossed). When people ask us how we’ll shower in winter, we have no answer, except: quickly!
Jonathan: The freeze-proof shower was a challenge. After a few hours of pacing around Home Depot’s plumbing department, I pieced together a plan: two frost-free outdoor faucets (they shut off about ten inches inside the bus), a bunch of fittings, and a standard shower head. With this set-up, we have a normal shower and we can drain the pipes during freezing weather. It works better than I hoped!
What about going to the bathroom? We have an Airhead composting toilet.
This model has a seal on the toilet seat and lid which creates a vacuum. The toilet’s venting system pulls air from the inside of the bus into the toilet and then out of the bus, which helps keep moisture down in the toilet and removes any odors. It is so efficient that even to Hannah’s extraordinarily sensitive nose — a nose that can smell food going bad inside a sealed container inside a sealed fridge from five feet away — there is no odor while using the toilet.
Does the itty-bitty wood stove keep you warm enough? Our cubic mini wood burning stove is our newest addition and is much better than our original plan of a propane heater. Some days when we run the stove, we have to open the bus windows to cool the bus down, so even though it hasn’t been too cold here yet, we expect that this stove will keep us comfortable.
What projects still need to be completed? *Finishing the door. (At the moment, a flimsy curtain between the entry way and the living space is all that protects us from the artic blasts.) *Installing removable drawers under the bed to make that space more efficient. *Completing the built-in spice rack. *Building an outdoor countertop. *Rigging a shower curtain. *Creating rooftop storage. *Painting the bus a more neutral color, such as gray.
What’s it like to travel with the bus? Exhausting. Planning is everything, both for the route and for securing things in the bus. This past summer when we took a trial trip to the Adirondacks and Canada, the most upsetting moment was when we failed to remove our loaded dishrack from the countertop before getting on the road, and the whole thing crashed to the floor. Now when we move the bus for anything, we do a walk-through of the space and secure anything that might move. We have a stockpile of bungee cords, baskets, and towels for cushioning breakables.
Looking ahead, what are your plans for the bus? We plan to mostly live in the bus (and occasionally housesit for friends) through the fall of 2024. At that point, we hope to take a year-long road trip across the US and into Canada. Between now and then, we’ll take a few weekend trips to Dolly Sods, or to visit extended family, but mostly we’re settling down and saving up!
A few weeks ago, my Brooklynite girlfriend forwarded me an email about a food tour. Wanna join us? she asked. Come up for a few days? One thing led to another and last Saturday, my daughter-in-law, younger daughter, and I piled into my parents’ car (they loan it out for long trips since it gets fantastic gas mileage) and set off for the city.
I’ve been to NYC quite a few times (mostly for Fresh Air meetings) but I’ve always traveled in via bus, train, or plane, so driving in felt nerve-rackingly physical, like I was bushwhacking my way in versus tessering. But shocker: it was ridiculously simple! My daughter-in-law is a whizz navigator and we pulled into my friends’ driveway just six hours after we left home, easy as pie. I couldn’t get over how close NYC was, and so accessible, too. I had no idea.
This was the first time I’d ever been inside a NYC home.
Our friends’ apartment is the first flour of the house; the owners live upstairs, and both families share the basement. The three of us slept in the spacious guestroom in the basement, and that same weekend two extra families were sleeping in the upstairs apartment. The house is huge!
Day One After we arrived, we spent the afternoon walking around the neighborhood. They took us to see all their haunts: the elementary school, the library, their previous apartment, their favorite little stores, Prospect Park, the art installation that a friend did (and my friend helped with). That night we joined the upstairs’ folks for a potluck Friendsgiving — just loaded up our arms with plates and food and padded up the stairs in our stocking feet to their apartment. How cool is that?
While the adults visited around the table, the kids had free range of the house, all three floors.
Day Two In the morning, the three of us walked to a local Farmers Market to check prices on eggs and vegetables and raw milk cheeses. There were pastries, too, and, ever the dutiful baker, I had to do research.
So far, I’ve yet to find pastry that’s better than Magpie’s (which both surprises and delights me).
We only ate a few bites of our pastries, though, since we had to save room for the main event: the food tour.
This was my first time on a food tour and I had no idea what to expect. Turns out, food tours are amazing, pretty much the best way to eat out EVER. Pay money ahead of time (for this one, $80/person) and then spend 5-plus hours walking around town with a group of food-loving strangers listening to a “professional eater” (his term) wax eloquent about the political, economic, and gustatory history of the place, and eating a whole heck of a lot of good food in the process.
I mean, seriously, what’s not to love?
This particualr “eating history” tour centered in Sunset Park, which is not a park, as I first thought, but rather a neighborhood in southwestern Brooklyn. To start, we all gathered on a street corner, and our guide, the dynamic, entertaining, and knowledgeable Arun Gupta (French-trained chef! Political activist! Food writer!) passed around a box of Finnish cookies before disappearing into a Fujianese restaurant to order our peanut noodles and dumplings.
Arun, in the blue jacket
We ate indoors at a couple places, but for most of the time we spent the afternoon in the frigid cold, waiting while he ordered the food, and then standing around on the street eating and getting to know the other participants (school teachers, social workers, community organizers, movie producers). I’d been worried that I’d get uncomfortably full but since the eating was interspersed with lots of walking, I never felt stuffed, or even full, really.
steamed bao: the most unusual food (to me) on the tour
Portuguese egg tarts
tacos: I had cabeza (head) meat
papusas: a whole variety
The whole experience was delicious and rich, invigorating and relaxing. It was such a treat to have a food expert pick out all the best things and then feed them to me. (When he was taking orders for the taco place, I told him I’d eat whatever he wanted to feed me. “Tripe?” he teased, and I was like, “Except tripe.”) Note: Arun gave us a whole list of all the restaurants and why they’re good, so if anyone wants to create their own Sunset Park eating adventure, let me know!
Towards the end of the tour, a bunch of us slipped into a panadería to warm up and ended up buying pastries, and, back home, we sat around the table and drank tea and ate pastries.
As though we needed more food!
Oh, and on our way back to the house (and other times throughout the weekend) we swung by the local Turkish-owned grocery store for goodies, like Turkish candy and fresh fruit.
Day Three Our friends had work and school, so the three of us headed into the city for the day.
My daughter-in-law wanted to go to a Japanese bookstore and my daughter wanted to see the Christmas tree and I wanted to get coffee, find pastries, and hit up Murray’s cheese shop.
at the Rockefeller
As soon as I walked up to the counter at Murray’s, an employee — I later learned her name was Elizabeth — approached me and asked if she could help. “Well, yes,” I said. “Here’s the situation,” and then I explained that I make cheeses at home and I wanted to buy as many different kinds as possible, especially the ones I was less familiar with like blues and b.linens, so I could better know what I was aiming for. Also, I had about 100 dollars to spend so could we please try to wring the most out of my money?
We started with the blues. I showed her a photo of my Full Moon Blue and we were off, trying to find similar yet different blues for me to sample. From there, we went to the b.linens — I picked out a spruce-wrapped one and when I asked if that was the kind that’s supposed to be eaten with potato chips, she all but whooped, thrilled with my cheesy nerdiness.
Elizabeth, it turned out, is an executive something-or-other with twenty years of experience at Murray’s (HOW LUCKY AM I?!) and she knew everything about the cheese: the names of the cheese makers and where they lived, which cheeses were made which months of the year, how the cheeses were aged, which cultures were used, etc. She asked me pointed questions and gave me little insider tips, such as “I’ve never seen this particular lactic-acid set cheese made with cow’s milk so I bet there’d be a market for this if you want to develop a similar recipe.”
Twenty (or was it forty?) minutes later, I’d exhausted my budget and had to call it quits.
The grand total? $99.57 — about 3¼ pounds of cheese. We did good!
After the cheese shop, we popped into a Thai restaurant for lunch and then hit some more subways with a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in the middle of it all.
That night, after a delicious family supper of lentil soup, bread, and cheese…
my girlfriend, daughter-in-law, and I went to a bar for live music and hot toddies and cider.
It felt like another slow year in the garden (neither of us like to garden so we avoid it), but we still managed to tuck away a fair bit of food, thanks to local orchards, farmers, and friends.
My younger son worked part-time at the produce farm and kept us well stocked in lettuce, kale, cabbages, onions, heirloom tomatoes, beets, and new potatoes, and from our own garden, we had plenty of green peppers, jalapeños, basil, rosemary, strawberries, red raspberries, and asparagus for fresh eating.
We are still feasting on beef from the three steers we slaughtered a couple years ago. The bakery/diner keeps us stocked in stale bread and leftover pork products. Our cow supplies all our milk and cheese and yogurt, as well as a good amount of butter and ice cream. We’ve swapped/bartered with friends for free-range chicken and pig bones for broth. All our eggs come from my daughter’s flock of chickens.
Rhubarb, frozen: 2 gallon bags
Apple Mint, dried: one-half dehydrator made 3 quarts of tea leaves
Strawberries, frozen: 12 quarts
Sour Cherries: 1 cup frozen; 2 quarts and 3 pints of canned juice (with sugar); 4½ quarts bounce
Wineberries, frozen: 3½ quarts
Blueberries, PYO: I forgot to record these, but maybe 4 gallons or so?
Applesauce, Lodi (4 bushes): 62 quarts, canned
Green Beans: 6 quarts free from a friend, frozen; 14 quarts Roma, frozen; 14 quarts Roma, canned; 15 quarts Tenderette, frozen
Cheeses: at least another 75 hard cheeses, plus ricottas, mozz, bries, etc.
The Notes *It was a struggle to find Lodi apples this year. Our regular orchard is no longer growing them, and many of the places I called only had a small amount…maybe. After searching fairly far afield, I finally found some at another (local!) orchard and happily snapped them up: $18/bushel. (I filmed the whole process but then I transitioned the YouTube channel to focus on cheese and never posted it.)
*Five pints of my oven dills didn’t seal, so I just popped them in the barn fridge and used them up first. Good news: certain family members are learning to like dills! We’re eating through them faster than I expected.
*After years of failed spring plantings of green beans, we finally waited to plant till mid summer — and it worked — a one-time-only planting with good germination. From now on, summer plantings are the way to go.
*We were totally out of sweet pickles so I made a quadruple recipe. I thought it’d be plenty, but the way we’re tearing through them, I’m not so sure. (I planted 18 cucumber plants so I could harvest a whole bunch of cucumbers at one time — I don’t like puny pickings — and next year I might have to do 24.)
*Since we still had some pesto from the previous year, I only made a quadruple batch of pumpkin seed pesto.
*We enjoyed the previous year’s family corn processing day so much that we did it again. We ordered 40 dozen ears from a local farmer for 200 dollars. After about 6 hours of work, we were totally done. Efficiency is a glorious thing! (And the corn is delicious.)
*Both nectarines and peaches were $40/bushel. We love dried nectarines — I have to bury the bag in the freezer so they don’t get gobbled — so I dehydrated more than normal. I discovered that slicing them in thickish rounds, not wedges, is easier and more toothsome.
*I finally learned how to pressure can! My maiden voyage was green beans, and it was soooo easy. Now I’m getting into bone broth. I’ve always bought cases of boxed broth from Costco, but the homemade stuff is much richer and more flavorful, and the accessibility of canned broth can’t be beat. I love adding it willy-nilly to everything: rice, beans, soups, etc.
*If I had to choose one fruit plant/tree, it’d be red raspberry. From July through September, the bushes give and give and give. I pick 1-2 quarts every other day and after a month of pickings, I’m pretty well stocked. (That’s when I call my sister-in-law and tell her it’s her turn to take over.)