An excellent post for sourdough aficionados!

Random thoughts

Debbie, at Stopping To Get My Bearings  asked about how I made the loaves in the prior post.

Hopefully this is organized enough.  It’s more of some notes and thoughts than a precise recipe.

I’ve found that sourdough bread–or any bread, for that matter–is somewhat difficult to turn into a precise recipe because of the imprecise nature of the ingredients, the kitchen environment and the things used to bake the bread.

  • I measure flour by volume knowing the amount of flour actually in the measuring cup depends on how tightly the flour gets packed in the measuring cup.
  • I live in the desert.  When I spent some summers at my grandparents’ house in (humid) Ohio,  I needed more flour than I expected to get the dough to “feel right”.
  • The altitude makes a difference.  I was used to making bread at around 1200 feet (375 meters) above sea level. …

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A Good Day

The winds continued to blow all night; though they died down by morning, that was purely relative, as they were still quite high!

Our deer feed and bird seed had been covered, but by morning, the snow was dug up in each of the spots I’d put them in, and there was very little left.  So we know that we do have deer coming in during the night to feed.

I’ve very glad to here from my husband that the mama and her twins were back this morning, though from the looks of the ground, it was already dug up before they got there.

Even before we had a chance to put more food out, Barbecue came by, soon followed by Hungry Girl, though she stayed away from the feed.  They ran off before my daughter went over with more food, and I never saw if they came back during the day or not.


The birds and squirrels were sure busy, though!


The camera still seems to be working fine again, though I’ve cut down the number of photos I take quite dramatically, so no photos of the chipping sparrows, grosbeaks and chickadees today.

I was busy, anyway.

Since we weren’t going to do the trip to the city we normally would when pay comes in, I focused on more unpacking.  Or partial unpacking, as it were.  There were a couple of small book boxes that had been partially unpacked and waiting in the living room, so I cleared out some shelf space in one of the dividers between living and dining room.  That included finally unpacking a curio shelf I have and getting my daughters to hang it on the wall in my crochet corner.  Much of what I had to move still isn’t in their permanent places, but their permanent places aren’t ready yet.

Almost all the books fit into the one shelf I was able to clear, though some had to go into the wall shelf in the master bedroom.  That space is beginning to turn into a catchall space, and I don’t like it.  Not much choice right now, though.

A bit of re-arranging in the bedroom meant I was able to unpack my cookbooks, too.  Again, they are not in their permanent space, but at least they’re out and accessible.

Then there were the big boxes sitting on the piano.


One, I went through and ended up breaking down a lot of packaging from camera and lens purchases for the burn barrel.  We’d kept the original packaging and receipts in storage for years, and there were even accessories in there.  I found the original packaging for one of my husband’s first smart phones, too!  The Treo.  Oh, how phones have changed over the years!  The other box was one the movers packed.  A very strange combination of things from various rooms, inefficiently packed.  There was even a folding step stool in there, turned upside down and used like a basket, rather than folded closed.  Again, it looks like they just tossed things into the box.

And we’re still missing things.  In fact, I just realized we’re missing both our irons.  I didn’t even think of it until I was looking at our ironing board, leaning against the wall by the piano, wondering where I can put it.  That’s when I realized I haven’t seen our irons in any of the boxes.  We pretty much never iron anymore, so they weren’t something we’d miss right away.

A strange thing to go missing.

Now that the movers have paid up for our broken stuff, I no longer need to hang onto them, so that box got cleared off the piano, too.  The only thing in that box we can try to salvage is the latch hook wall hanging made by my late mother in law.  We’ll have to replace the broken wood hanger.  We should be able to remove it without damaging the mesh.  The rest of the broken stuff in the box is garbage now.

But the top of the piano is clear now, so we can hang up that antique mirror of my mother’s, above it, and eventually put some stuff on display on the piano itself.  Like the creepy, creepy baby doll wearing one of my baby dresses that my mom gave me, and has somehow managed to creep its way into our hearts.

The stuff of nightmares, that thing is.  I love it! 😀

The cats, meanwhile, are very happy to be able to go on the top of the piano again.

Altogether, I finished unpacking 5 more boxes today.  A very good day! As of right now, the only things left to unpack are all in my office.

My tiny little office.

I’ll figure something out… 😀

Granted, I still need to deal with our 90 gallon aquarium, which I’ve left wrapped in the foam pieces I’d taped around it to protect it.  The plan had been to set it up at an angle in the corner, then focus on aquascaping, once filled.  My aquatic plants are doing very well in the 20 gallon tank they’re in now, but when I set up the big tank, I also want to get plants that grow a lot taller for the background, and dwarf grasses for the foreground.  I will need to find someplace to get replacement parts and hoses for my brand of filter first, though, and I’ll also need to check and make sure the additional weight once it’s filled won’t be a problem.  If it were just the piano or just the aquarium, I’d be less concerned, but both in the same general area of the living room? I’d rather play it safe!

Little by little, it’s getting done!

The Re-Farmer




Mundane Things

So a few things have moved along in just the past couple of days.

I got a response from the movers, after I emailed the estimate to repair their property damage in, then asked about the $400 they said they’d send for the damage to our belongings.  The first one I read said that the claims department had already sent the money by etransfer, then let me know that my estimate was being passed on to the insurance company.

I didn’t have an etransfer, so I went checking through my spam folder to see if it was there.  It was only after I sent a response saying I didn’t get it, that it came in.

So that part is taken care of as of yesterday evening.  They’ve paid up for the damage they did to our stuff during the move.  That lets us breath a bit easier for getting our van fixed.

Which leads me to the next bit of progress.

I got a call this morning, from my brother who lives next door.  I’d called a cousin everyone has been recommending to me to fix our van.  He’s retired and said he’d come out when he was in the area – he lives in the city, but has property out here, where his shop is.  He had stopped at my brother’s for coffee and they would be popping by together to look at our van.

So when I went out to do the cats stuff, I also went to open the garage, pop the hood, plug in and hang a light, left the keys on the seat, then opened the gate.  Then I went inside and had my tea in my crochet corner, so I could see them when they drove over.

Then there was a knock at the door, and they came in to tell me the status of the van. Since I had everything already set up, they pulled over at the garage and checked the van first, and I never saw them!

It’s confirmed that the noise is from the bearings in the water pump.  My cousin says he can fix it for me – and he can even get a new pump at wholesale cost for me!  We talked for a bit and I mentioned the first noise being made by a belt in temperatures colder than -20C, but that when the other noise started, I stopped driving the van.  I’d only started the engine a couple of times.  I think he appreciated that I didn’t drive the van with that noise.  It would have worked for a while, but could have caused some much more expensive damage, eventually.  On hearing about the belt, though, they decided to go back and check it, in case it needed to be replaced.  He’ll have to take the belt off when replacing the water pump, anyhow, so that would have been the time to replace it, if it was needed.  It turns out my belt is fine, so that’s good.  When he puts it back on, he’ll be sure to make sure it isn’t loose anywhere.

So he’s going to order the part for me and will come and pick up the van to fix it, probably around Friday.

Which is SUCH good news!

It’s also going to be much cheaper.  I’d gotten the cost of the water pump, if ordered directly from GM.  Depending on how much his price turns out to be, getting him to fix the van for me will cost about as much as it would have cost me to just buy the part from GM!  Not that I would have done it that way, if I had had to buy the part myself.  I would have gone elsewhere.

Meanwhile, my brother told me to keep using his van.  That is so sweet of him!

useage.details.before.Jan.resetAnother thing on the list of things to do today; reset the data usage for my computer.  Our internet account rolled over today, so I will monitor it over the next 30 days and see if all the stuff I turned off made the difference.

I noticed, however, that my total system usage over the past 30 days had gone down.

That means that, between 30 and 38 days ago, my computer’s system alone used up about 3 gigs of data.

I will be checking my data usage often, to see if there are any sudden jumps.

The next thing on my to-do list was to call the phone company.  I had been able to use their automated system to find out what our bill was, and it told me they’d mailed it out on Jan. 15.  I never received it, and needed to call back during business hours to find out why.  I asked to have it emailed to me, and for future bills to be emailed as well.  Then I got myself transferred to the sales department, so I could pick a long distance plan.

The pdf of the bill arrived in my email before I finished the call.

I found out why I didn’t get the bill.

Despite having given them my name and mailing address, they had my name, but my mother’s mailing address.

So that explains why my mother called me a while back, thinking she was going to be charged with my phone bill!  She must have opened it, not even noticing it had my name on it, instead of hers.

So that is now fixed; confirming my mailing address was one of the things done when I called.

As the hours passed, the winds and snow continued.  We had intended to go into the city to do our big, monthly shopping trip with our own vehicle, but since that won’t happen until the weekend, my daughter and I decided to go to the next town and get some groceries to tide us over; we’re still okay, but at that stage where we’re running out of enough things to be inconvenient.  Which would have been fine if we were going to the city tomorrow, when the pay comes in, but not so fine for several more days.

I also wanted to get it done while the roads were still clear enough to drive on.

The drive was certainly interesting!  The open road between our little hamlet and the next down over runs East/West.  The wind was coming from the south.  There are a few places where there is nothing to cut the wind at all.  It wasn’t too bad, but we definitely got buffeted a fair bit!

But it was done, and we’re good for a while, even if for some reason the van ends up taking longer to get fixed.

The wind can blow and the snow can fall.  We are safe and warm and well supplied.

I must admit, though, I can hardly wait to be able to drive our van again.  We avoided using my brother’s van as much as possible.  Once our own wheels are up and running again, we will be making quite a few more outings.  Especially to the city, so my husband can visit his father.  And with the money from the movers, I’ll be able to get the vehicle registration and our licenses transferred faster, too!

It’s going to be good.

The Re-Farmer

Critter Pics and… sadness

I only have a couple of critter pictures for you today, and both were taken with my phone camera.

I took many photos using the digital camera we keep on a tripod by our living room window, but then the camera died.

Then it worked again.

Then it died again.

Then it started doing weird things, like the viewfinder going completely black and the shutter getting stuck open.  Not being able to focus.  Error messages showing up.

My husband is the camera guy, and he opened it up, did some cleaning and checked it out.  The cleaning seemed to have helped a bit, but then the problems all started up again.

It looks like the camera body is on its last legs.  We hadn’t used it for so long, then suddenly we were taking probably an average of 150 photos a day.  It may not have handled that well!

When I uploaded the memory card onto the computer, there were only a few photos, taken later in the day.  Everything I’d taken before then was gone.

Our older daughter has offered to lend us hers; she has a Nikon D80, too.  I’m now paranoid that if I start using her camera, it’ll end up like ours.

Something else to add to the list of expensive things we’ll need to replace.  As much as I love my phone’s camera, it still can’t do as well as a good DSLR and some quality lenses.


We did get one deer visit today.


This is Barbecue.  Hungry Girl didn’t show up today.  At least not that I saw.

I later saw that my brother’s dog had come out to check on his van, and that may be what has the deer’s attention in this photo.

The van is parked in front of the main entry, outside the kitchen window.  It was when I noticed the dog that I also saw this…


Nasty Crime Boy and Rolando Moon were checking out the dog – and me! – through the window.

The Re-Farmer



Home Made Yogurt and Yogurt “cheese” – Day Two; finished

Here are the final results of the yogurt and yogurt cheese making process.

You can visit the first part here, with the recipe, and the second part here, with the step-by-step to make the yogurt cheese.

First up, let’s compare the finished yogurts.


This was after the home made yogurt was in the fridge for several hours.  It did thicken somewhat from when I first put it in the containers, but as you can see, it’s still quite a bit thinner than the commercial yogurt I’d used as a starter.  That yogurt, by the way, was just a house brand of plain “Balkan” style yogurt.  I normally buy Greek yogurt, but it was more than twice the price!

As far as texture went, the only difference was that one was thinner than the other.

I couldn’t really taste any difference in flavour.

After taking the photo, I mixed both together with a bit of brown sugar and cinnamon.  It was quite nice!

One of my daughters promptly claimed the container that wasn’t quite full for herself, and ate it straight. 😀

Now, on to the yogurt cheese…

After hanging for about 3 hours, there was quite a lot of liquid in the container.  Enough that I poured it off into the container I’d already started in the fridge, almost filling it, so that the bag wouldn’t be sitting in so much liquid.

When very little more drained out of it after another hour or two, I decided to take it out and finish the process.


Look how much liquid there is!  I can hardly wait until our next bread baking day. 😀

Once the bag was on the plate, I could really feel how the middle was thinner than the outside.  If I had a cheese press, I would have been able to get more liquid out, more evenly.  Maybe some day.  For now, I’m happy with doing it this way.


And here is my yogurt cheese baby.  With the outside being drier, it allowed me to gently roll the cheese out of the cloth.  If that part had broken up more, the softer middle would have got on the cloth and made it much more difficult to get out of the bag.

Guess how I know that? 😀


Once out of the cloth, I mixed it thoroughly to make it an even texture.  This is a bit on the thin side to be a “cream cheese.”  More like a really thick sour cream.

I had a couple of smaller containers waiting for it…


I filled one with the plain yogurt cheese, then added some garlic powder, onion salt and parsley to what was left in the bowl.

I admit, I licked the spatula after doing this, and the onion and garlic one was sooo good!

Like the plain yogurt, it thickens a bit in the fridge, but not by much more.

If I had wanted to, I could have left the bag to hang longer to drain more liquid out and have more of a cream cheese texture, rather than a sour cream texture.

We are looking forward to trying some of this on pierogi soon!

If you try making this yourself, please to pop by and let me know in the comments, how yours turned out, and what you think of it!

The Re-Farmer

Estimate In

I received the estimate, last night, for replacing our power pole and hooking electricity back up to the garage.

The total, including taxes, is $1500.25

Which is actually lower than my brother had expected. He thought the labour, alone, would cost about $1500.

It also includes delivery of the pole.  My SIL, who works for the electric company, had looked into getting it done through a contact she had.  It would have been a bit cheaper, except they would have had to pick the pole up and deliver it themselves (even if our van was repaired, we don’t have a trailer hitch, so we couldn’t do it ourselves).  And to do that, they would have had to go to a town about half an hour north of us.  So it would have been about two hours drive for them, just to get it.  Then they’d have had to load it up themselves, haul it here, unload it, then drive the 1 1/2 hours back home.

Paying to have it delivered is the much better choice!

Once I had the estimate, I responded to the movers.  With the cost being above their deductible, it means I will be dealing with their insurance company.  Which I hope will be more professional than the moving company.

I also sent an email to my lawyer, updating him.  If all goes well, that will be then end of that, with him.

My email to the movers also asked about the status of the $400 they said they’d pay me for our damaged belongings.

We shall see how that works out.

The Re-Farmer

Hello, Deer

Today was a very busy bird day!  Especially the grosbeaks.  So many of them!

At least until the deer came.  It was continual back and forthing between the birds and the deer!


While there were plenty of chickadees, as always, and a blue jay also made an appearance, it was the grosbeaks that really stole the show!  There were so many red ones today, too.  Constantly flying in and out of the area.


Also very busy today were the chipping sparrows.  Just masses of them!  They dash in and out a lot faster than the grosbeaks.

Then, out from the garden, a deer came loping enthusiastically in, and the birds took off.  Much to my surprise, it was the little hungry looking one!  The other one she usually follows came prancing in some time later.


He did try to chase her off, but amazingly, this time she just shifted to another pile of feed, and they both ate together for quite some time!  A couple of times, she got chased off a bit farther, only to come back again, prancing in quite enthusiastically.


It was so good to see her getting a decent amount of food, for a change.  And to see her being less skittish. I look forward to seeing her get all sleek and fat, like the other one.  That one clearly has seen no deprivation, this winter!

I wonder if the little one had gotten sick at some point?  Aside from when we had that polar vortex some in, with bitterly cold temperatures, it’s been a light winter, with very little snow to prevent deer from foraging.  There is lots of wild food to be had.

Eventually, he chased her off for good.  Then ran off, himself, later on.  He came back a couple more times throughout the day.

I’m thinking of calling the mean one, Barbecue.

The Re-Farmer




Home Made Yogurt – Day One

I hadn’t intended to make this again so soon, but my daughter and I were able to make a quick trip into town and she made a passing comment about how we should make yogurt again.  I’ve been thinking of it since I posted about using the liquid from making yogurt cheese in bread baking, so that was all it took to convince me to get what we needed to make some now.

Making yogurt is really pretty easy.  The main thing is to have a warm place for the bacteria to do its thing for the hours it needs.  I’ve found leaving it in a warm oven with the light left on overnight to be adequate, but there are other methods.

Since that is my preferred method, it’s a two day process.  I use a full gallon of milk, and plan to use half of it to make yogurt cheese tomorrow.

Along with the ingredients, a candy thermometer is needed, and containers you can sterilize to store the yogurt in, later.  Any container that can handle being scalded, with an air tight lid, of the appropriate size for your amounts will do.

The recipe I use is from Whole Foods for the Whole Family, from La Leche League International.  I have a 1991 printing of it.  It’s a very handy cookbook, if you like to make things from scratch.  I modified the recipe for larger quantities, so I’ll include both the original quantities, and my own variation (in brackets).

This recipe uses plain commercial yogurt as a starter.  Make sure you check the label to see that it says something like “active bacterial culture” or “live bacteria” on it.

Do not use the optional gelatin if you’re planning to make yogurt cheese.  The gelatin serves only to make a firmer yogurt.


4L milk, scalded


4 cups milk (4 litres/1 gallon)
1 cup powdered milk (4 cups)
2-4 Tbsp plain yogurt (1/2 – 1 cup)
2 tsp (8 tsp) unflavored gelatin, softened in 1/4 cup (1 cup) cold water – optional

  1. Scald milk.
  2. Cool to 95 – 155 degrees. (The recipe does not specify, but looking at my candy thermometer, it must refer to Celsius, not Fahrenheit)  Check with candy thermometer to be sure.


    Yogurt starter and powdered milk stirred in.

  3. Stir in powdered milk and yogurt.  Add optional softened gelatin.
  4. Pour into sterilized jars, a baking dish with a cover, or a thermos rinsed with very hot water.  (Because I use an entire gallon of milk, I leave it in the same container I heated it in and cover it with a lid.)
  5. Place into or on a yogurt maker or use other heat source.  A thermos just needs to be wrapped in a towel.
  6. Put in a warm place and allow to incubate at 95-155 degrees until yogurt sets.  It can take from 3-9 hours, depending on your heat source.  Check after 3 hours to see if it is set by tilting the container or tapping it with the heel of your hand.  When set, refrigerate immediately.

Maintaining the temperature is vital; too cold, and the milk can go sour.  Too hot, and it will kill the bacteria.  The recipe lists several options for maintaining the right temperature, but a few of them a fire hazards, so I won’t bother including them. 😀

Yogurt cheese isn’t really cheese at all, but is has a texture similar to cream cheese and makes a wonderful spread.  To make it, you’ll need cheese cloth, and somewhere to hang it.

Which I don’t have.  So I have to figure something out for tomorrow.

Anyhow… to make yogurt “cream cheese”

  1. Line a colander with 2-4 layers of cheesecloth.  Place the colander over a bowl, then dump home made yogurt onto the cheesecloth.  Pull up the corners of the cheese cloth and tie them together so it can be hung.  Suspend the resulting bag of yogurt over the bowl and leave overnight. (Or just a few hours, depending on how thick you want it)
  2. Reserve liquid in bowl for bread baking.
  3. Remove yogurt cheese from bag and refrigerate.

Fair warning: getting the yogurt cheese off the cheese cloth can be a messy job!  Also, the outside will often be drier than the middle, so you’ll probably want to mix it together.  If you wish, you can mix in some dried herbs or garlic or otherwise experiment with it.

More, tomorrow!

The Re-Farmer