Monday, January 30, 2012

Making Mozzarella

I bought this kit quite awhile ago from Urban Cheesecraft just to get started.  I am sure it will be less expensive to buy the individual ingredients in the future, but I am happy to be finally attempting.

The kit came with citric acid, rennet, cheese salt, butter muslin, thermometer, and instructions for ricotta and mozzarella.

We started out by dissolving 1/4 rennet tablet into 1 cup of cool water. 
Then dissolved 1 1/2 teaspoons of citric acid into 1 cup water.

I poured one gallon of raw milk (jersey cows) into a large pot and then you are supposed to add the citric acid solution (we missed reading this part!) and heat to 90 degrees, stirring occasionally.

Then at 90 degrees, we slowly and gently stirred in the rennet solution for 30 seconds.  The milk was heated to 110 degrees.

As Abby and I were watching the thermometer reach 109 degrees and nothing was happening, I started to worry.  Then all of a sudden, within seconds really, the curds started forming.  This is so neat to watch!
We started to wonder before it turned if we had done something wrong and then magic!
Does anyone know the history of cheesemaking?  Who first started using rennet?  I am going to have to do some research - I am finding the whole process pretty amazing.

We then removed the curds from the whey bath (that is what the water has now become) and heated the whey to 185 degrees.  Then we took the pot of the stove and after forming two balls with the curd, we put them in the whey to heat to 135 degrees (when the thermometer is placed in the center of the curd ball).

Next, Abby and Isaac stretched and shaped the cheese after adding 1/2 teaspoon to each ball.

The two vintage pyrex storage containers I bought for $4.00 at a local thrift  store make great containers for the finished cheese.

It did come out a little rubbery.  Is this because we didn't add the citric acid when we were supposed to?
I would love to hear your experiences and tips with cheesemaking.

Warm wishes,

Saturday, January 28, 2012


someone with a good sense of humor

Abby using some of our hand dyed yarn

sweet morning girls and how big the littlest is getting

the old with the new

What are you noticing today?

(Don't forget to leave a comment to enter the giveaway in the post below.)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sweet Delivery and a Giveaway

We received this beautiful package in the mail the other day.

Oh what a treat this was.  Our family enjoyed it so much.  My favorite was caffe latte. 

To pass on the giving, I am offering a children's toy sampler from our family's business.

a birchmobile, wool grasping ball, and birch ribbon runner

To enter, just leave a comment below.  The drawing will be held on Sunday evening at 7:00 pm.

The winner is Rain.
Just email me at
so I can get your package off to you.
Thanks everyone!

Warm wishes, Tonya

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Yarn Along - Hand Knit Doll

Joining in with Ginny again this week.  I am having fun knitting this sweet doll.  The free pattern can be found here.  She also has patterns to knit clothing to fit!

I am really enjoying Jane Eyre, a nice before sleep book.

What handwork projects are you working on?  Any good books?

Warm wishes, Tonya

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


With a family of nine, we do get to enjoy cake and ice cream fairly often.

Abraham isn't a big fan of the camera.

His only handmade gift this year is a wand.   He showed me that it works well to keep balloons in the air.

It is fun to watch the other children get excited with the decorating, baking, and gift giving, even when it isn't their special day.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Good Neighbors

Our homesteading friends and neighbors have decided to sell their homestead to move a little bit south of here to be closer to their family and live a bit easier as they progress in years.

Their beautiful property is for sale.  If that link doesn't go directly to the listing, it is $129,000 and in Lowell, Vermont.  You should be able to find it.

We would love some more wonderful neighbors:)  Anyone interested in a simple home on 22 acres, completely off grid with solar, a beautiful workshop, chicken coop, barn and one other out building should take a look.

Did I mention cookstove and established garden beds?

We sure are going to miss them.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


finished mittens for little hands and birch hearts found and cut from dear husband

that someone had the brilliant idea of putting one of the thrifted doilies on top of the branch slice on our kitchen table - the only one that says he did it is Abraham... hmmm an almost four year with great taste in design

Abby is making great progress on a 1000 piece puzzle

these words on one of our son's bedroom walls

Friday, January 20, 2012

One of Many

(A photo Isaac took of himself - found on my camera.)

"It's not like in the Berenstain Bears book, Mom, how Sister felt neglected, when you have a new baby Mom.  It's not like you give the new baby all your attention.  Of course the new baby gets lots of your time but you still do things with everyone, like how you run around and do Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes with Abe in the morning."

As a mom of seven, sometimes I do worry that maybe each of our children deserve more of me.  And then, as a gift from God, out of a child's voice comes reassurance and grace.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Knitting and Reading again for the Yarn Along

Joining in with Ginny this week - to share two of my favorite things to do - knit and read!
I finished Emmy's vest using this pattern.  This is the most simple of patterns.  If you are a beginner I highly recommend it.  You could easily adjust it to make vests for all sizes.
I have cast on this morning for mittens for Abraham, he could definitely use another pair.

The book I have been having so much fun looking through is one I borrowed from the library.  It has inspired me to make my own books and to journal as an artistic outlet - especially since I only have small snippets of time for that.

Looking forward to catching up with all of the knitting and reading you are doing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

We are ....

Warming by the woodstove

Caring for a chicken

Reading and snuggling

Creating books (more about this soon)

Playing in the snow

What are your days like right now?

Monday, January 16, 2012


This day of Thomas' 18th birthday was much like the day he was born - 
one of the coldest days of the year yet sunny and beautiful.

This day is bittersweet for me - as I wrote to Thomas in his card.  Bitter because I know our time
together will be less in the years to come and I will miss him - we all will miss him.  He is the spark of our family - so often eager to play with his younger brothers and sisters with genuine enthusiasm and joy, helping out with the household chores whenever asked, sharing his views on the Bible which sometimes found he and I nearly debating in recent years, and simply enjoying his company throughout the days.  I will miss the early mornings when he is usually the first to come down and join Mike and I at breakfast time.

It is a sweet time because I am so happy for the gift that he has given me - the privilege to be his mother.   From the very beginning he taught me trust and patience as I wondered how I would ever get through each day during his first few years.   (No, he was not an easy baby nor young child - but I am sure too that I had much to learn about being a mother.)
He has taught me much about faith as he has grown in his own beliefs.  

 Thomas has also let us share in his accomplishments of following his passions - theatre and music.  From such a young age he would put on plays and puppet shows and then began acting with small theatre companies at the age of 7 and has not stopped.    Now in the middle of the college admissions process, he is another step along the path of using the gifts God has given him.

It makes me happy to watch the tender Thomas, the one who is sad when he thinks about the possibility of leaving his baby sister when he goes off to college and missing so many of her "firsts".   The responsible Thomas that wakes himself in plenty of time to get off to work by 7:00 am and makes to-do lists each day.  

It is ever so sweet to think of the man he has become and the new life that he will shortly embark on as he makes his own way apart from his family, while remaining still so very much a part of us.

Here is a poem Thomas wrote last night and shared with me this morning ~

Prospects Of Hope - Jan. 15th 2012 - 18th Birthday

A new dawn breaks
O'er past horizons,
A dream of old reborn to the world.
A journey and a destination,
The beginning now behind me.

I look to the North:
I see the True Soul,
Speaking, serving, ruling.
To me, for me, over me.

I look to the South:
I see the Prism of Light,
Cascading in a multiplicitous form.
Shadowed, but soon revealed through love.

I look to the West:
I see the Stage
A lit with ravens carrying clovers and thorns,
But they all scatter as I draw near.

I look to the East:
I see the Black Dawn rising
Over pyramids of song,
And I hear the dragon stirring.

Beneath me lay crushed bones,
And above me shine stars without fault.

What an epic I shall write.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Moments from the Week

Joining in with Jules of a little crafty nest to share - 

lots of table time - 
learning, painting and playing

And a little project ~

Our branch hooks were hung quite randomly and I decided it was time to give it a bit of a boost.  I asked dear husband if we could put the hooks on a painted piece of pine.

this is the before picture

I decided to paint the door as well.

and this is the after picture

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Nolan's Handcrafts

Our recently turned 16 year old son, Nolan, has opened his own etsy shop - Nolan's Handcrafts.  So far he is making guitar hangers and branch buttons.    It really is exciting to see one of our children catch the spirit of handmade and to be marketing his products all on his own.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Food Compromises

With a growing family of nine and a small income, we have to make some tough choices when it comes to our food purchasing.    Last night we did have roasted potatoes and winter squash from last season's gardens, but for the most part we still purchase most of our food.

If money was not an issue, we would be 100% local and organic, but we wouldn't be able to pay our other bills if we did this.  So choices have to be made.

On our shopping trip yesterday this is what we bought -

At a local small grocery store (we don't shop at the big ones like Price Chopper or Shaws) -
5 pounds of conventional rice
8 pounds of pasta
2 jars of spaghetti sauce (we used to buy cans of Hunts but realized they use corn syrup so we don't any longer) - next year we hope to can more.  Our tomatoes did not produce this last year.
2 bottles of Hunts ketchup (they do not use corn syrup on their ketchup) and we have some children that seem to want ketchup on nearly everything
1 bottle of olive oil
2 cans of organic diced tomatoes
1 64 oz bottle of cranberry raspberry juice (a brand that doesn't use corn syrup)
5 - 14 oz boxes of Cheerios - usually we buy two large boxes per week but these were on sale  (Our children alternate between this and pancakes for breakfast - Mike and I  and Abraham eat organic rolled oats for breakfast several mornings each week - the oats are purchased in bulk from the local natural foods store.  I have organic raisins on my cereal.)
1 can or Parmesan cheese
1.5 pounds of honey (raw semi-local - but not the really good stuff from our neighbor as it is just soooo expensive and with all of our tea loving children we can't afford it)
1 bottle organic red wine (can you believe they have some for 5.99?)
10 pounds of King Arthur white flour (this goes with our 25 pound of local Butterworks whole wheat organic flour)
1 bag of store brand chocolate chips
1 box of store brand saltines
1 can of coffee (we buy fair trade whenever possible)
3 pounds of butter (conventional)
2 pounds monterey jack cheese (we eat grilled cheese often for lunch in the winter)
4 boxes of organic mac and cheese (once per week for lunch in the winter and this crew needs four boxes)
1 pound of mozzarella (weekly homemade pizza)
1 Stonyfield organic yogurt (we usually buy our local Butterworks Maple at their farm once per week as well)
4 rolls of Marcal no chlorine, recycled toilet paper
1 container of seventh generation dish detergent

At the local Natural Food Store:
1 16 oz bag of organic corn chips
Drews organic salsa
4 - large organic onions - (we are going to grow many more of these this year our self as they keep well in the basement)
1 bag organic Flax seed meal (I use this in bread, cookies and on top of my pancakes and yogurt)
organic tofu

This should get us through most of the week.

I have granola from last week - I use organic rolled oats, wheat germ, sugar and honey, cinnamon, sunflower seeds, flax, oil and butter.  This goes on yogurt for mid morning snack.

We purchased organic turtle beans from Butterworks farm which we are having 2 - 3 times each week either with tomatoes and spices or used in soup or made into baked beans for our protein.

In addition, I buy a container of tofu to go with tomato sauce and pasta once per week for dinner.
Then, we buy local organic beef when we can afford it  - usually once every other week.

Our chickens only give us about 4 eggs per day right now - but that is enough for pancake batter once or twice a week and all of the baking I do.

Yeast, I purchase about every other week in bulk from the natural food store for our daily bread which ends up being 3/4 organic (with the Butterworks organic wheat and King Arthur white).

We purchase organic raw milk once per week after church at the farm after church and then do drink conventional milk the rest of the time - can't wait until we can milk our goats.

So all in all, we spend about $175 - $200 -per week on everything - that includes dog food, cat food, chicken feed and so on.

Our food does involve many compromises and we hope to do more ourselves each year, but this is where we are at right now.

Any other ideas to share?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Daily Practice

When we lived off grid in an old mobile home with five children and then for a year with our sixth baby, practicing gratitude became a habit for me.  I just knew that God had a plan for us and that He would not give me any more than I could handle.

So while carrying water from one end of the mobile home to the other to wash dishes or while scrubbing clothes by hand in the wash bucket or filling our "refrigerator" with a bucket of snow, or wondering how we would ever manage with yet another baby, I had a choose to either embrace what I had or be miserable.  I did often come to God in tears, but through it all, giving thanks daily and often became a habit.  I would thank God for the food we did have to eat, the clothes I was able to wash, for my husband and children, for a roof over our head, and so on.

Now that our lives are truly much more comfortable, I don't have to be working from the time I wake to the time I go to bed just to meet our family's needs, and now that our business is providing for us plus, now that our home has ample space for all of us, running water, electricity, a washing machine - it is so much harder to remember to give thanks continually - to remember that all comes from God.

I bought this book this past summer and have read it once, but pick it up often to re-read sections and now with the near year, I have begun my own thousand gifts journal.  I need to do this to remind myself of how much I have been given but even more so I need to do this to be reminded of how much I have to give.

"Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble.  Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.  The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring."   --Isaiah 58:10 - 100--

Warm wishes and blessings as you begin the work of a new week,

(Ann Voskamp, the author or One Thousand Gifts, has a wonderful blog - A Holy Experience.)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Moments from the Week

skating on our pond

 father and daughter together at lunch time

 needle felting with Sarah and Abraham

 making penguins and snow people 
although the children say they all look like penguins

a new knitted pair of booties for Emmy

life is so good

Wishing you a wonderful weekend,