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Archive for the ‘cheesemaking’ Category

Welcome to the fifth week of our Fun in the Summer Sun event!

Each Monday until September 7th
Mama to 4 Blessings along with Harvest Moon By Hand,
Adventures of Mommydom, Sweet Diva, and Sweet Phenomena
will be hosting Fun in the Summer Fun link up events.

Here’s the line up:

1st Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer activities”
2nd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer crafts”
3rd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer recipes”
4th Monday of each month: link up your “How to stay cool in the summer heat”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

This week the focus is on kid-friendly summer activities.  Some of the things we’ve enjoyed doing during the past week include:

Visiting a Buffalo Farm

Sophia sitting on the Eichten’s mouse.

On Wednesday, we visited Eichtens farm which is an all-natural artisan cheese company and buffalo farm. They produce a Dutch Gouda and a variety of other European-style cheeses.

Olivia sitting on the dairy cow statue.

The bison at Eichtens are totally free from any growth hormones, antibiotics, or other medications. Their animals are raised on native pasture grasses (grass fed), and hay/oats. They raise the feed the bison consume.

Some of the buffalo herd at Eichten’s.
There were quite a few young ones in the herd.

According to Eichtens’ website, “A strong relationship between the human and buffalo has existed for thousands of years. Bison sustained the lives of the explorers and settlers going west as well as the Native American.

The older and younger animals sat right next to one another.

“They were believed to be the most important of the wild animals in the development of North America. Once an integral part of the Native Americans’ way of life, the American Bison is again a central part of the lives of many Americans today.

The girls wanted to sit on the buffalo statue.
They weren’t the first one with the idea – there was a
well-worn path from the dirt road to the buffalo.

“The Bison stand as a symbol of the American West, an animal of survival and our American Heritage.”

Picking Strawberries

Olivia holding some strawberries she picked.

Also on Wednesday, we picked two flats of strawberries. 

Sophia looking for strawberries at the berry patch.

We’re going to make a variety of food from the strawberries as well as eat them plain.  This year, we’re going to try canning a strawberry-lemonade drink so the fresh strawberry taste can be enjoyed during the winter.

Providing an Abode for the Toads

We’ve been seeing hundreds of baby toads here, and came across an idea for helping the toads survive the hot, summer heat.

Olivia holding a baby toad.

In the May 2007 issue of Family Fun, one idea for children to enjoy their backyard is to make a home for toads.  As the article noted, “These hungry amphibians can be a big help in keeping garden pests, such as slugs, grubs, and potato beetles under control.  Entice them to hang out around your plot by creating a shady retreat.” 

American Toad Found While Gardening
American Toad that we found in the garden
when we were planting flowers.

The article continued, “Pick a spot that’s protected from the wind and where the soil is moist, and dig a few shallow depressions.  In each one, lay a terracotta flowerpot on its side and then fill it partway with sandy soil.”

Now it’s your turn!  What kid-friendly summer activities does your family enjoy doing?

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “K.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter K…is for Kitchen.
When I think of homeschooling, one of the places that we spend a considerable amount of time in is the kitchen.  The girls and I enjoy cooking and baking, so incorporating a culinary aspect into homeschooling is a natural fit.
The girls have been helping in the kitchen since they were about 18 months old.  As they have gotten older, the new skills they learn match their developmental and physical abilities. 
Both Sophia and Olivia will look at recipes as I’m planning meals for the upcoming few weeks.  When I’m doing this, they often will look at the pictures that accompany the recipe (the majority of my recipes come from cooking and women’s magazines).  They’ll see a picture of something that looks good and will ask if they can make it. 
Trying a new recipe, having it be a part of the meal, and seeing what it tastes like is something that makes the girls happy and proud.
Olivia with Pumpkin Pie
Olivia holding a pumpkin pie she made.

During the past few years, I created an ABC Journey Around the World in which the girls learned about a different country in alphabetical order (e.g., Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, and so forth until ending with Yemen and Zambia). 

One of their favorite parts of learning about other countries was seeing what people would eat in different parts of the world.  I found recipes on the internet as well as through recipe books from the library. We tried anywhere from one to six recipes per country (some were easier to find recipes for than others).

Making Mexican Hot Chocolate
The girls made Mexican hot chocolate
using a recipe found in a children’s cookbook.
They also made Mexican scrambled eggs
that morning for a complete breakfast.

French Green Bean Recipe
Sophia is holding a green bean sidedish
using a French recipe. 

Olivia Making Swedish Rolls
Olivia is making Swedish cinnamon rolls.
The recipe came from a local church cookbook
that had a whole section on Swedish cooking
(we live in a community that was founded
by Swedish immigrants).

The kitchen is more than a place to cook and bake food.  With homeschooling, the kitchen also becomes an area to do science experiments and hands-on activities.

One of the science lessons that the girls did focused on marine life and pelicans. Apparently a pelican can hold 13 1/2 quarts of water in its pouch. The water drains out, leaving only the fish which the pelican then can swallow and eat.

Sophia Being a Pelican
Sophia trying to catch a marshmallow
as part of a science lesson about pelicans.

In the photograph above, there are 2 marshmallows in the sink representing fish. Sophia’s job is to catch the marshmallows. It’s harder than it looks.

The girls learn best when they can make a hands-on, tangible connection with the subject about which they are learning.  This is so important when the concept might be more difficult for them (e.g., electricity) or would benefit from a visual example (e.g., lung capacity).

Lung Capacity Experiment
Olivia learning about lung capacity.
She took a deep breath and then blew air through the tube
that led into the water-filled 2-liter pop bottle.
The air would push out the water from the bottle
and show how much air was in her lungs.

Sometimes when we’re cooking, the girls learn new words or make a connection between what they’re cooking with something else they’ve heard or learned.  For example, when we were making cheese, the curds separated from the whey.  They immediately made the connection with the nursery rhyme they had heard many times:

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey,
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

Cheesemaking - Curds Separating from Whey
Learning to make cheese.  In the process,
the girls saw the curds and whey separate; and
made the connection of a nursery rhyme they heard.
(The curds are the white part; the whey is the liquid.)

For one nature study, we focused on learning about dandelions.  In addition to the science part of the study, we added a culinary component where we made dandelion cookies, dandelion vinegar, and dandelion oil/salve.

Making Dandelion Oil for Salve
Olivia making dandelion oil.
The oil can be used as a base to make salve.

The kitchen also is a place where the girls create things for the holidays and different seasons. 

Borax Snowflake - Step 3 - Sophia
Sophia making borax snowflakes.
Homemade Marshallows for Valentine's Day
Olivia holding homemade marshmallows
she made for Valentine’s Day.

Gretel Waiting for Pumpkin Guts
Sophina carving a pumpkin while Gretel looks on.

An important part of our time in the kitchen is when we make food to help others.  We have made many meals and desserts for people experiencing medical/health challenges; and have chosen to donate some of our food to those in need. 

Cereal to Donate
The girls packaging up some of food to donate
to an organization that serves people who are homeless.

We also make food for animals – treats for the dogs, cats, and horses; and for wildlife.  Making food for the hummingbirds to drink during the summer and suet for the birds during the winter are regular activities. 

Sophia Helping Make Bird Suet on a 25 Degree Below Zero Day
Sophia making suet for the birds on a
very cold 25 degree BELOW zero day.
Needless to say, the birds needed the energy
and were constantly eating the homemade suet.

Seeing how excited the animals are to get a treat…and to see the variety of birds that now visit the feeders is a lot of fun.  Being able to observe animals up close (especially birds) is such a highlight of homeschooling.
So many subjects are covered in the kitchen beyond home economics – reading, math, science, community service, and geography. The kitchen truly is one of the centers of learning for homeschooling…and one of our favorite places to learn! 

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Made a simple cheese – paneer – with Sophia and Olivia. Started with a gallon of whole milk and heated it on medium heat. Added lemon juice and then the curds began to separate from the whey.

Eventually, when the whey turns a yellowish color, it is time to pour the mixture through a clean dish-towel lined colander. The curds will remain in the colander while the whey drains through the holes.

Then the towel needs to be twisted at the top and even more whey will be released from the curds. The curds then are placed under a water-filled container for about a day. They cheese is then ready for use.

In retrospect, I would have added some fresh herbs or other flavoring to the curds before placing it under the water-filled container. In this way, there would have been some taste to the cheese. Otherwise, it is a rather bland cheese. Nonetheless, it was an interesting process to watch…and an easy introduction to cheesemaking.

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