Sunday, September 26, 2010

Of My Grand Dream

O.K. I have been thinking...(scary, I know!) I need a dream. I have needed one for a long time now. I have needed some dream that when I wake up every morning it makes me excited to be alive--something that I can think about during the day, some sort of purpose, raising my beautiful children aside. There are only a handful of people whom I know of that actually have a real, significant dream. Or maybe I just don't know what people's dreams are...either way, it appears to me that most of us (and yes, I am including myself in this category--at least until now) just float through life, without any big hopes or plans. Don't get me wrong, I don't think there is anything necessarily wrong with that. I know people can go about doing a lot of good for a lot of people, just while they are travelling along the road of life.
However, does that kind of life make people excited to wake up every morning? Does it give people something to look forward to, to dream about, to research and learn about and keep those old brain cells alive? That is what I am after. So, the past several weeks I have been thinking a lot about my current interests, and what I might like to do with them--what I would like my dream to be. I think I have found it.

First, my current interests (a few of them, anyway):

1) I like to eat (don't we all!). More specifically, I like to eat really healthy foods (not that I always do, mind you.). I have been learning some very disturbing things lately about common foods we eat all the time, and the additives, preservatives, colorings, etc. in them, and the effects they can have on our health. It is fascinating to learn about, and makes me want to change a lot about the way my family eats. (This will be a future blog topic you may all look forward to with great anticipation!)

2) I like to garden. I'm probably far too practical for my own good, and as such, I'm not really a flower garden type of person (I leave that to Curtis and Maile!), but I love to grow stuff I can eat. You know, fruits, vegetables, nuts...that kind of thing. I didn't really discover this interest until I had a home/yard of my own, or I might have had a different major in college! (It's amazing what a difference ownership of something makes!) I find it so therapeutic to be around green, living things that I can nurture and care for, and see awesome results!

3) I like to help people. Mom and Dad gave all of us kids a great legacy of service to others. That is important to me on many levels, and makes me feel good when I can touch someone's life. I have been blessed on countless occasions by people who have come into my life and made a difference, and I would like to be that person for others as well.

4) I enjoy teaching. I particularly enjoy teaching teenagers. One of my first jobs in high school was for the county extension office, going throughout the county teaching health and nutrition classes to kids. It was so fun, despite my two partners, who, well, let's just say they weren't as enthusiastic around the kids as I thought they could have been. On a religious level, my favorite calling in the church thus far has been a youth Sunday school teacher. I love it! I loved it when the kids felt like we were good enough friends that they could come over and shoot paintballs at my fridge, or have water fights with us, or play capture the flag in the house. Teenagers are so alive and engaged, and I think some of their energy and zest for life wears off on me when I am around them. I thrive on it!

5) I also really enjoy being around the elderly, again, thanks to Mom, who had us volunteering for years at the Nursing Home, and also thanks to my job there as a teenager. One of my hopes for when Curtis and I become millionaires is to go around the country donating aviaries and square foot gardens to old folks' homes.

6) I love warmth and despise coldness. The weather here in CA is perfect, although the landscape is a little too deserty for my taste. (Is "deserty" a word?!) I am looking to head to Oregon, I think, though I am still researching the perfect place to live. It has to be plenty green, lots of rain but not too much, and a fairly temperate climate. I think I am alright with a VERY short, mild winter--just enough snow for the kids to play in on occasion, but not enough to have to do any serious shoveling. If anyone knows of such a place they could recommend after reading the rest of this blog entry please tell me! If your recmomendation is the winning ticket, I will reward you with cash and prizes galore!

7) I want to do humanitarian work. I got my BA in International Development, and by golly, I want to do something with it!

8) I am also very interested in using sustainable energy sources, and would love to eventually be completely independent as far as powering my house and appliances.

So, what to do with all of these interests? Well, I have decided I want to be a gentleman farmer, so to speak. Have kind of a U-Pick place, plus. I want to grow organic, healthy, good food, raise my own chickens and cows, have a kickin' orchard, I want to press my own apple juice, crack nuts in front of the fireplace from my own pesticide-free trees.....the list goes on.

I like the peace and tranquility of being in the country, but I have a problem, because I also love to be around people. I am very much a people person, but I don't like feeling crowded, if that makes any sense at all. So, that's where the U-Pick part comes in. Let the people come to me! Invite folks from the rest home to come and dink around in the garden. Maybe provide scholarships for inner city kids to come for camps/internships in the summer, and teach them about making healthy food choices, where their food comes from, and how to care for animals--give them responsibilities. Provide an inexpensive place for families to come and enjoy trying out life on a farm--let them pet and feed the animals, help gather eggs, and milk the cows, give them hayrides around the farm, let them slide down the slide I plan to have in the hayloft, or splash in the kiddie fountain, let them pick pumpkins from the pumpkin patch. Let them enjoy fresh organic apples from the orchard, or raspberries from the patch. Let them help take care of the animals at our in-house pet rescue. (-; I also want to provide temporary jobs for people who are down and out, until they can get back on their feet. One thought I had about that is maybe I could offer a system where people can pick stuff and keep a percentage of the produce to sell at a Farmer's Market or something. I do not believe in giving handouts, but I do believe in rewarding hard work! I am all about finding ways to do things that are mutually beneficial to all parties involved, and I think a system like that would be perfect.

I am very interested in employing some wonderful new farming techniques I have been learning about. I want to do grass farming with my cows, which is where the cows go into a field, munch on the grass for a few days, and then are rotated to a different pasture, and the chickens in their mobile coops are brought in to clean up the bugs after the cows. It is a little more involved then this, but you get the picture--very good for the environment, very sustainable.

I want to make my own cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese, from my antibiotic/hormone-free milk cows, and know that my family is getting the best, most healthy milk available (more on raw milk later).

I do have a slight drawback to this big, grandiose plan. I like to travel occasionally. I don't want to be so tied down to a farm like this that I could never take a vacation, or go visit family. That being said, I think it would be highly advantageous to do something like this with family members or perhaps close friends, so we could help each other out. Obviously, this dream I am forming would be way too much for just our little family to manage. If anyone is interested in sharing my dream and making it your own as well, let me know! I figure we can get a lot of acres, then everyone who wants to can build on a little spot, with a common area for everyone to enjoy. Just FYI, since I am dreaming, I do plan to have a very awesome heated pool/hot tub in the commons area for relaxing in after a hard day's work. I am a farmer girl at heart with city tendencies, or the other way around, or something! I do enjoy the finer things of life!

So, that is about it. I will be researching a reading a lot of books over the next years to find out the best methods of doing things, the best varieties of fruits and veggies, the best gardening techniques...I am so excited! I have woken up every day the past couple of weeks with something to look forward to and TONS to learn about. My hope is to have this ready to go by the time Arden begins high school. He is six now.

Here's to being independently wealthy and being able to finance something like this! Better get busy, Curtis! (-;

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Of Yogurt Adventures

Well, I am woefully behind on my blogging. (What else is new!) I'd better get cracking, as I have a lot to write about!

First off, I have to say how blessed I feel to have gotten involved with this lovely group of women I have met here in the area. It is so nice to have good friends who lift you and make you "aspire higher."

Last night we had a little ladies night with four of our little group. It was fun to sit and gab and eat good food. Kayla (my lovely sister in law) gave us a juicer demonstration, and we enjoyed sampling each other's fudge (well, I enjoyed sampling fudge--I have never been able to perfect the art of fudge making. I always...ahem...fudge it up. Ha Ha. O.K., I know I am not that funny.

I had also made homemade frozen yogurt out of (drumroll please) real homemade yogurt.

Here is the recipe for anyone who wants to try it. Actually, I will just put in the link here for my readers' purusal.

I followed the instructions to the T, finished up at about 10:00 at night, and trotted off happily to bed, expecting to wake up to a lovely batch of creamy yogurt in the morning. Sadly, the next morning when I removed the lid and gave the pot a stir, the liquid looked exactly the same as it had when I had poured it in the night before. I whipped out my handy dandy thermometer, which I had purchased expressly for the purpose of making yogurt, and took the temperature of my liquid. The idea is to keep the yogurt at a constant 110 degrees for several hours so the bacteria can do it's thing. Too warm and you kill your bacteria. Too cool and it doesn't grow. It was no where near the necessary temperature. The heating pad had failed me. Next thing to try: stick it in containers in my crockpot. I poured hot water into my crockpot and set in my two containers of yogurt milk. After a little expirimentation, I found that if I turned my crockpot on warm and left the lid off, it was almost exactly the right temperature. Presto! Several hours later, perfect yogurt. (Maybe "presto" is the wrong word to use.) One more note: as a beginner, I used whole milk rather then a low-fat milk, although supposedly you can use any kind of milk and any fat content you want--I think the consistancy is just thinner if you use less fatty milk.

Next step. Attempt to impress the ladies coming to my house later in the evening with a FROZEN yogurt treat. This is where the adventure comes in. First of all, I had planned to freeze my yogurt in an ice cream maker that was recently given to us, but that we had never used. It looked similar to my friend, Karen's, that we have borrowed in the past, so I figured that would be no problem. WRONG. After I poured my yogurt in the canister and arranged the ice and salt around the outside, I discovered that I couldn't for the life of me get the doggone lid on. After much silent cursing, I dumped the ice out on our deck and decided to pursue a new tactic. I had about three hours before my guests arrived, so I thought if I spread the yogurt out thin enough in the freezer, it might freeze in time. So, by turning my cookie sheet sideways, I managed to finagle it into our freezer, where it fit perfectly--not an easy task I might add, seeing as the freezer door butts up against our counters and therefore does not open all the way. I then poured my liquid directly on to the cookie sheet already in my freezer. Smart....or, not so much. I then discovered that the freezer door wouldn't shut. Eeeks! Now what to do...cookie sheet full of liquid, can't get it out...can't shut the door. I had no choice but to do my best to dump it out, trying to get as much as possible into another container. Of course, most of it spilled, which I expected would happen. What I didn't expect, was that most of it managed to pool UNDER the fridge, I think just to spite me. To top it all off, a canister of little plastic heart beads that had been happily sitting on top of my freezer for weeks had the nerve to fall on my head and scatter hearts everywhere, right as I was finishing cleaning under the freezer.

Of course, Leila wanted to give me her advice on how to best make a mess (although I told her I was doing just fine on my own, thank you very much), but she still felt she had to chime in with her very loud opinion. Just what I needed, a squawking kid in the background to add to the excitement. Anyway, I finally managed to get the remains of my peach yogurt in the freezer. We enjoyed soft serve peach yogurt that evening. (At least I told the ladies they'd better darn well at least pretend that they enjoyed it!) They were kind enough to act duly impressed.

Lesson learned from all this? Never keep containers of heart beads on top of your fridge.

Oh yes, my peach yogurt recipe:

2 cups pureed peaches
2 cups plain yogurt
1 t. vanilla
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
1 pkg. unflavored gelatine (opt.)

Dissolve sugar, water, and gelatine in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Mix this together with all the other ingredients. Freeze as desired, preferable in an ice cream maker.