Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Good bugs, Bad bugs

A quick walk in to the garden and there was a swarm of these ugly black and red bugs all over the greenhouse, the raised beds, in the lettuce bed -- just everywhere. I'm talking hundreds upon hundreds of these little suckers:

Creepy little monsters, aren't they?
Ok, so they're not so big -- and not so bad, either. In fact.... I was ecstatic to find them. They are lady bug larvae and they can be some of the most voracious  eaters of aphids around. If you see them in your yard - CELEBRATE.
 On the other hand, if you see these little bastages (below) prepare to kill.
I used to be squeamish about killing bugs with my bare hands.
I no longer have that problem; I squish these evil cucumber/melon killers with my bare fingers.... they are pure evil incarnate -- they carry bacteria that kills/wilts your melons, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, etc. so when they bite into the vines, the bacteria spreads the wilt in both directions, out to the fruit and back to the root. 

What ever was growing.... will die. 

DH and I killed about 30 just yesterday on my campanula. They are apparently mating.

What a way to go.... 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Making feta cheese

Ok, well I didn't think to capture the first part of the recipe visually, I suppose, because it's BORING.

But here it goes anyway:
1. find fresh goatmilk.
2. avoid the Fed dairy-nazis

3. sterilize a metal pot (with lid) by steaming a few tablespoons of water in an empty pot for a few minutes.
4. dump the hot water down the sink
5. dump in 1 gallon of goat milk, stir in 3T bacterially infested yogurt (or buttermilk) bacterial cultures must be alive
6. dissolve 1/4-1/2 tablet of Rennet (found in the ice cream section of your grocery store) in a few tablespoons of water and add it in as well.
7. Stir.
8. Wait 8+ hours.

You will be looking for something called a 'clean break'. This is when you poke your finger through the surface of the congealed milk and the surface 'separates' around your finger instead of leaving a film on it. You're looking for solidification. If you don't have it.... wait. If after 20 hours... something went wrong.

What I like to do is cut the curds into blocks. It makes them easier to handle.

One they're cut up, I have a large bowl with a colander sitting in it, draped over with cheesecloth. I pick up the cheese blocks and set them in the colander. SAVE THE WHEY. (This is the milky solution that is left once you remove the curds.)
Once all the cheese blocks are sitting in the colander on the cheesecloth, you'll want to grab the corners of the cheesecloth and pull them upwards to make a sling. Then I like to use either a rubber band or an Ikea bag chip clip to collect the cloth at the top of the cheese ball.
Then I use either another rubber band or a string to hang it from my upper kitchen cabinet handles for about 3-5 hours, sometimes checking the cheese inside and tightening the clip down to make sure the ball is being 'squeezed'.
While you wait.... you'll need 2 empty tin cans. A larger can (V8 can for me) and a smaller can (big can of tomatoes) to fit inside the larger one. Poke holes in the larger one along the bottom.
Then once the cheese is pretty much as stiff and dry as you can get it, shove the cheeseball into the bottom of the larger can. Then squeeze the smaller can in on top of it, wrap it with rubber bands lengthwise (top to bottom across the outside of both cans) so that the pressure is maintained on the cheese smushed between them, then set it in a bowl so that there is room for more whey to get squeezed out from the bottom, but not have the cheese sitting in the whey.

After a few days in the fridge in the apparatus, you can pull out the squooshed cheese ball from between the cans, cut it in to little feta slabs, and store it in.... the whey you saved from before!!

You will want to add salt so that you have a 10-12% brine solution, about 20 oz of whey per 4-5T of salt. Then let it brine. The longer you let it brine in the refrigerator, the drier and crumblier it will become.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

'Pocket Hose'? Euphemism or 'As Seen on TV' ad...

Actually it's both.

 The concept is simple enough -- and yes, I did see it on TV. It's a hose that shrinks down when empty, saving space, and when it's full of water, it expands to a 50 foot hose. Viola.

 I bought this 'pocket hose' for $20 at Bed Bath and Beyond yesterday because our old hose spontaneously decided to burst open and water the garden all on its own. I figured what the hell, it was $20 and if it was as good as it appeared it might be, it was a deal. It weighs less than a pound and is very easy to move when empty. Also, when it drains, you can hide it in a small flower pot. Very nifty indeed.

So I plugged it in to the  spigot, unraveled it a bit to get it started, and turned on the water. It immediately expanded and all the wrinkles dissappeared, leaving me with what appeared to be about a 3/4" taut hose. It worked!

The business end of the hose was closed off with a small toggle valve, and in order to get the water out of the end of the business end, you had to twist the knob.

Which promptly snapped off in my hand, spewing me from head to toe with several gallons of water.

So long story short, the hose filled up with water, then lasted approximately 5 seconds before breaking.

I love the concept. I love the water pressure.
I hate the poor fittings and the impromptu shower.

If they makers ever get the crappy plastic fittings shored up, I'll think about buying another one, but this one is going back to the store tomorrow for a refund.

Also, why neon green?? Come on people, it's going top get dragged through the mud, how about making one MUD COLOURED?