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It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

'Tis the season to be busy, fa lalalalaaa la la la laaa...Please forgive me again for neglecting this blog. When not at work, I'm making homemade things, doing some shopping online, some shopping out in the community, it's been fun. I enjoy having adult kids because I still buy Christmas for them but it's different. They all enjoy my homemade goodies they find in their "care packages", i.e. homemade jelly, homemade soaps and sugar scrubs and their favorite candy. But I still love to gift them according to their bent. I zero in on one special large item or several small items for a theme that fills that want in their life. So far I'm batting a thousand and almost ready. I need to finish one particular package and ship it off to Utah this week to one couple. The other kids are in the area and I will be seeing them personally.

Oddly enough though, I'm also thinking past Christmas to January, where I will be buying seeds online and starting them in my basement in February. The garden is never totally over for me. August is when I start planning because I know what works and what doesn't work, what new things I want to try and what I will never do again. What gets me through the doldrums of winter is watching the sun slowly rise higher in the sky as Persephone begins her ascent from Hades back to Mt Olympus where life will once again bursts forth into spring. Whaaaat??? Greek mythology....look it up.

The other reason I haven't written sooner is I had a catastrophe of sorts. Sweet Meeka the dog lost her head and killed all but six of my chickens. I know she didn't eat them by herself because my brothers two dogs look suspiciously fat these days and equally guilty. But dogs will be dogs and my fence has been in need of mending. It was sad having only one rooster and 5 hens in the coop instead of 12, but a sweet friend of mine had some older hens that were in need of rehoming, so I took them in yesterday. I'm sorry I don't have any pictures but I will do that in the next blog. They seem to fit right in and Levi the rooster immediately ran to greet them and whisper sweet nothings into their ears. This morning, everything was good and they all survive the night together! One of the new chickens had the nerve to challenge Petri the duck at his swimming pool. But he told her in no uncertain terms she was not the boss of him! So Levi the rooster is not the only bad man in the coop. I did get the excess poop and feathers raked out of the hen house and mixed into some of the garden beds for winter. And Meeka the dog got a new body harness to keep her from getting loose again. It's unfortunate that she cannot run free during the day because she really is a wonderful dog, but after the birds have gone to bed for the night, I cut her loose to run and play, so it's working out.

There's not much else going on with the farm at this time, but I have been cooking a lot and I have a recipe I'd like to share. Seriously, anyone can do this and you'll be amazed with the results.

Homemade Cheese, also known as farmer's cheese, used to be a staple in homes a hundred years ago or more. With the advent of grocery stores and food manufacturing, this simple practice is gone to the wayside. However, it's never too late to try something new and you just might like it.'s a lot like goat cheese but milder.

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Cast of characters, 1 gallon of whole or 2% milk
3\4 of a cup of white distilled vinegar
Heat the milk slowly stirring occasionally to approximately 170 degrees. The temperature is reached, pour in the vinegar stir thoroughly.

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The milk will immediately begin to curdle and that's what you want. Turn off the heat and cover for 20 minutes. You're going to be straining the whey off of the curds. So you need to decide if you want to keep the whey or not. It looks kind of gross but it actually still tastes like milk. No whey! Yes! Yes whey! You can feed it to your pets, you can water your plants, you could put chocolate milk powder and drink it yourself. Lot of people keep it and use it in recipes like cakes, pancakes, biscuts, anything that calls for milk. If you want to save the whey, then you need to get a large bowl and a large strainer or colander. If you don't want to keep it, just pour it through the strainer to catch the curds and let the whey go down the drain. Either whey, you want to keep the curds.

After 20 minutes, pour through a strainer to catch the curds.

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A lot of recipes will tell you to tie it up in cheesecloth for an hour, sometimes overnight. I NEVER do that. I find that I end up with a dry, crumbly cheese if I do. Wait for it to stop dripping, then put the curds in a bowl and add about a teaspoon of salt and mix well. You want to keep tasting and adding salt because it's pretty flavorless, which is actually the beauty of this. You have a blank canvas to do many many things with. One of my favorites is to add is garlic powder, mix thoroughly, then press it into a dish of some kind, cover with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge.

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After it has cooled a couple of hours, you'll have something similar to cream cheese. Not super spreadable but soft and creamy. So this is the basic cheese. I also have added herbs while mixing the salt. Sometimes dried cranberries or a dab of raspberry jam is the perfect compliment. Sometimes I like to take salted cheese and cut it into squares or cubes in the dish and then poor flavored oil over it and brush it around. After it sets a couple days, it makes a fantastic addition to a cheese tray. Another thing I like to do is place cubes into a jelly jar, add a few basil leaves (fresh or dried) a few pieces of sun-dried tomato and some garlic, maybe an olive or two and cover the whole thing with olive oil and pop a lid on it. After two days in the fridge, it tastes like something that you bought in a high-end deli, only you made it yourself! This cheese is not aged. It needs to be refrigerated and consumed within a week. I hope you try your hand at it this Christmas season!

Merry Christmas and God bless us, everyone!


Jill Barlow


Future articles will include information about gardening, meat birds, egg birds, photos and lots of project ideas.

For further information, to ask a questions or to suggest a program topic, contact Jill Barlow at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..