Saturday, August 30, 2008

Little Updates

It occurred to me that I haven't given the update on Carli's test yet. I am happy to report that despite her fears of not passing the practical exam, she did indeed pass. The next step is a written exam, probably to be taken some time in November. When she passes that she will be able to call herself a Registered Dental Assistant!

The next item of news is we have teeth breaking out all over! This is not the usual place for first baby teeth but you can barely see the first tooth in the upper right corner of the baby's mouth.

Taking a picture of the baby's teeth is not easy. She was uncooperative (can you blame her?) and here the camera focused ever so nicely on my big fat hairy thumb!

But you all get the idea, I'm sure. That first snaggle tooth was noticed on Carli's birthday, August 9th, and now we've also noticed the bottom two appear to be coming in. So she's been doing a lot of chewing on everything she can get her mouth on or shove into her mouth and of course there's been a lot of accompanying drool. Fortunately for me she hasn't been intolerably cranky as some teething babies can be.

Now for my unhappy news. My computer conked out on me yesterday, which is why I didn't post. I was going to post the above "news" but couldn't. In the past when the computer shut itself off it meant it was too hot and needed to cool down. But when it happened the outer case was not hot and the inside of the house was only about 80 degrees. I waited a while and then kept trying but it wouldn't turn back on.

Then I thought maybe it just needs to "rest" overnight. The last time it did this it wouldn't turn back on until the following morning. This morning -- nothing. I was glad that when it did turn on from the last episode, which was just a few weeks ago, I copied all my photos to discs (eight cd's!!!). I would have been very sad to have lost all the baby pictures and many of the others.

I resigned myself to having to buy a new computer.

Finally, to my joy, this afternoon the computer agreed to allow itself to be operational. I think I still better get a new one though. You all can be my first line of research. Does anyone have any good/bad experience you can tell me about with your computers? Any recommendations and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. (PS-my current computer is a Sony Vaio, and we have cable connection.)

Thank you!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


My sheep milking season is over. Yes, it was brief, all of about plus or minus three weeks, but it's done for this year. I've been working on getting the sheep dried up by feeding no grain. Now I have to get them back into shape for a fall/winter breeding. That means a little more hay and add the grain back in. Baby is still on the thin side but she doesn't seem as depressed as before, which is a good sign. She should be able to put the weight on fairly easily now.

It's a good thing I've stopped milking for another reason. My freezer was getting full of gallon milk jugs full of sheep milk. We are a non-commercial, mostly for family or for gifts only, production. So I don't have a giant walk-in freezer, and my sister, who is on the cheese making side of our operation, doesn't have a giant commercial sized cheese making facility. So we make do with what we have.
Yesterday I went to her house to deliver four more gallons. She's finished with her latest college course and she has a four day weekend coming up. That means she'll be busy making cheese. Here's what she's made in the meantime.
From the top center going clockwise: the tall cheese is a Manchego, a Spanish cheese; Romano; an unknown type home style Mexican cheese (the only one not made by my sister. It was made by the mil of her coworker.); three blue cheeses made with slightly different techniques; a beautiful, georgeous Camembert; and a Libyan cheese called Al Zahra, which is not supposed to have the blue mold but does because it was kept in the same fridge as the blue cheeses.

After the cheesey photo op we had to test the cheeses that were ready. First we tried the Manchego. The texture wasn't quite right. It was a little too firm; it squeeked in my mouth as it was being chewed. But MT knows what she did wrong on this one and it sounds like an easy fix. Otherwise the taste was fairly mild and definately edible. It left a very pleasing aftertaste.

The Al Zahra, even though it's not supposed to be "bleu" was very tasty. It also was a bit firmer than it's supposed to be, again, an easy fix. Still, it had a very good flavor, maybe like a cross between a Muenster and very mild baby Swiss.

The blue, or "bleu" cheese was divine. MT is still having a bit of a problem getting the mold to go throughout the whole cheese, but the texture is right and the taste is absolutely right.

Not pictured in the group photo was the feta. My sister has this one down pat and it's always good.

The other cheeses, the Romano, the Mexican home-style, and the Camembert were not ready to cut into yet so we'll have to wait on those. But the Camembert was so beautiful I found myself constantly oohing and aahing over it like a star struck movie extra.

I put a quarter next to it so you can get an idea of the scale. It is stunning, isn't it?

We'll have to wait a few more weeks before we can dig into those and I can hardly wait!

Meanwhile I'm glad to take care of the animal side of our operation while my sister handles the more technical and complicated production side.

You rock, MT!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Gulf Fritillary

Lately we've been having a lot of butterflies fluttering about the Lantana plants in the front. We've always had a lot of the Western Tiger Swallowtails and little skipper butterflies but this year we have one I hadn't noticed before.

My husband, who is usually well informed on names and types of bugs and especially birds, was stumped on this one. So I did what any normally curious person would do and I image-googled "orange butterflies". Up popped a bunch of photos of all kinds of different orange colored butterflies. I found my butterfly on the first page in an image taken from It said it was an "Agraulis Vanillae Maculosa", common in Buenos Aires.

Then my husband suggested I google "Kern County butterflies". I did so and found a nice website called, if you can believe it, "Butterflies of Kern County"! I found my butterfly again along with its common name, the Gulf Fritillary.

What I find so interesting about these butterflies is the top and bottom have completely separate patterns. I'm sure it's not all that unusual but it seems to me that most moth and butterfly undersides are just a duller version of the topside.

During my research I found this on YouTube. I don't know how to post it here but here's the link and you can go there. It's a Gulf Fritillary pupating in time lapse.

Call me wierd but butterflies are somehow soothing to me, like the sound of tinkling water from a fountain.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Stud Muffin

No, this isn't about my husband. And no, this isn't about any of the Olympic athletes either.

I just had to share about a bread I made.

We have a book called The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. It's a great book all about all kinds of breads. It goes into great detail about different equipment, food brands (Pillsbury, King Arthur, etc.). It even gives different methods (stand mixer, food processor), and measurements (lbs & oz vs cups vs grams). It can be a little confusing, but the recipes are really wonderful.

Now apparently I am still having a little trouble with one of my new years' resolutions. It's the one I made about thoroughly reading the instructions before starting a recipe.

My husband was recently thumbing through the bread book and came upon pictures of the Stud Muffin. One of the reasons it's called that is because it is "studded" with bits of cheese on the top.
It looked really good in the book and the ingredients included three kinds of cheese: parmesan, romano, and gruyere. So I went to the store and bought the cheeses and the flour recommended (since I usually buy cheaper store brand flour). I got home and started making the bread.

Oops. First off it says "unbleached" flour. I got the brand name, but it was bleached. I thought it can't make that much difference so I continued.

You start with a "sponge" which has to sit for 1 - 4 hours. It was already too late in the evening so I let it sit overnight. That was Day One.

The next day you make the dough. You eventually have to put it in the fridge for 8 hours or up to two days. That was Day Two.

Then you take it out and get ready to bake it. First it has to rise to triple it's size. It was supposed to take about 4 hours but after 5 1/2 hours I said it's risen enough. Into the oven it went. When it was done it was a thing of beauty. That was Day Three.

Talk about a cheese bread! If you like cheese you will love this bread. We ate it with some bbq'd brisket my husband had made earlier. It was delicious.

I would have to say it would not have been as complicated as it seemed originally if I had just read the recipe through completely from the start to begin with. In retrospect it really was quite simple and worth the price of the book. Maybe it should have been named "Three Day Stud Muffin". Or maybe I really need to read things through first.

You want the recipe? You'll have to buy the book!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Almost Dead

Friday was a very hot day and along with the heat there was humidity and bad air. I try not to be outside too much on days like that.

With the evening feeding I was distributing the hay to the sheep, cows, and pony while my husband filled their water tubs. While he was watering he remarked that it looked like one of my chickens was down.

It didn't really surprise me because we've had these chickens for quite a while now and it seems like they go to the big chicken coop in the sky more frequently with this type of weather.

I went to check on her and found her laying on her breast, feet straight out behind her, but still alive. I thought I'd try and make her passing a little more comfortable so I took her out to the grass. My husband had made a pool of water in the lawn and I gently set her there and spread her wings over the area. Meanwhile I was dipping my fingers in the water and transferring it to her comb, which was very hot. I tried to put her in what I thought was a comfortable position and I went back into the house. I was not optimistic about her prognosis. I was sure we would be one chicken less in the morning.

I know there are people that look upon their chickens as pets and even give them names. But I learned not to get too emotionally attached to my chickens. I don't give them names and I try to be realistic about their purpose here. I feed and water them and they are supposed to give me eggs. Eventually they die and I replace them. That's just the way it is.

When my husband eventually followed me in that night he told me he moved the chicken. He flapped her wings a few times over the watery grass and eventually placed her, wings spread open, on the corner of our telephone post fence.

The next morning I looked out and to my complete surprise I saw a white chicken pecking and scratching around by the sheep. Was it one of my neighbors'? No, his were still all penned up. Surprisingly our heat stroked chicken pulled through and was happily looking for grain scraps and bugs as if nothing happened. In the pictures she is the white chicken with the flopped over comb. In fact, at first I had a hard time trying to figure out which one was the sick chicken when I let them all out together.

We know cats have nine lives. How many lives do chickens have?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Strawberry Pie

Last week I made an impulse buy of a package of strawberries. They were sitting in the fridge for a few days when my husband warned me I'd better do something with them before they went bad.

Hmm. How about a strawberry pie? That sounded good to me!

I got my trusty Betty Crocker's Cookbook out for the crust recipe. Only in my recipe I tried something a little different. I replaced some of the flour with corn starch. I had seen this in a shortbread recipe and it claimed to make it lighter.

I was very pleased with the results of my corn starch experiment. I have always loved the crust on Marie Callendar's pies. My crust was close to theirs. Using the corn starch may be the secret!

Then I got the bright idea to put cream cheese on the bottom of the crust before putting the strawberries on top. I looked in the cookbook to see what they had and lo and behold! I guess my idea wasn't so original after all. So of course I had to change it up again. Instead of using 3 ounces of cream cheese I used 8 and I sweetened it up with a little powdered sugar. Nothing like a little sweet and fat overload!

By the time it was all said and done it turns out my pie was a success. My son was away for the week but my husband said the pie was really good. My son is back now. Yesterday I made it again so I could take the pictures for the blog. My son ate almost all of it. That means it was good.

Here is the recipe for you. (This is for an eight or nine inch pie.)

The ingredients for the crust are: 1/3 C + 1 T shortening; 2/3 C flour; 1/3 C corn starch; 1/2 t salt; 2-3 T ice cold water. The rest of the pie ingredients are: 8 oz cream cheese; 1/4 C powdered sugar; approx. 1 pound fresh strawberries; 1/2 C strawberry jam; 4 T Grand Marnier. Notice my vintage Tupperware flour canister. It's ugly but it serves its purpose.
To make the crust put the shortening, flour, corn starch, and salt in a bowl. Mix with a fork until the ingredients are all incorporated.
Add the ice water one tablespoon at a time and stir until it all comes together.
Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and let it chill while you wait for the oven to come to 475.
When you are ready roll the dough out and place it in your pie pan. Then get to serious poking with your fork. You can prick the dough all over or use pie weights to keep the dough from puffing up while baking. Most people use a sheet of tin foil and dry beans. When I do it I don't like to waste the beans so I use tin foil and a few metal spoons criss-crossed over the top. Hey, whatever works. Whichever method you use, then bake the shell in the 475 oven for about 10-15 minutes.

Don't laugh at my poor fluting skills. I can never make a pretty edge no matter how hard I try. Well, at least they taste good!

Of course you can use a premade dough/shell if you must. But it wouldn't be nearly as fun or messy now, would it?

While the shell is cooking you can start the cream cheese mixture. Beat the cream cheese until it's nice and soft, then add the powdered sugar. When the shell comes out of the oven spread it evenly over the bottom.

Rinse the strawberries and cut the tops off. Arrange them over the pan. I would have preferred smaller strawberries but I had to work with what I had. Here I tried to put them in the pan so the biggest were in the middle and the smaller ones were to the side.

Now for the topping. Mix the strawberry jam and the Grand Marnier in a small saucepan. Heat it until it's all melted and then spoon over each strawberry so the whole pie is nice and shiny. I love shiny things. Put the pie in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Isn't that pretty!


1/3 C + 1 T shortening
2/3 C flour
1/3 C corn starch
1/2 t salt
2 - 3 T ice water

Preheat oven to 475. Mix shortening, flour, corn starch, salt with fork until it resembles crumbs. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, until mixtures holds together. Shape into disc, wrap with plastic wrap and chill for about 30 minutes. Roll dough out, place in 8 or 9 inch pie pan. Flute edges, dock bottom and sides of pie. Bake for about 10 - 15 minutes.

8 oz cream cheese
1/4 C powdered sugar
approx. 1 lb strawberries
1/2 C strawberry jam
4 T Grand Marnier

Beat cream cheese with powdered sugar. Spread over bottom of crust (this may work better when it's still warm from the oven).

Rinse strawberries and cut the green top off. Arrange over the cream cheese.

Heat jam and Grand Marnier in a small saucepan until melted. Spoon over the strawberries. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Monday, August 11, 2008

Red Rock Canyon

On Sunday my husband was experiencing a mild case of cabin fever. We agreed to go on a drive to see the Red Rock Canyon, just about an hour away, and a place we'd never been before. The drive took us out into desert. We pulled into the Ricardo Campground to look around, since most of the area was actually off-road.

My first impression of the area was that it was rather arid. That is a big "DUH!" since it is in the desert. As we got closer it started looking more like the landscape of a strange foreign planet. That was not so far fetched, as several movies have been filmed in the area, though not all science fiction. (Click here and then click on the "Credits" button.)

My next thoughts were that it looked like a surreal cathedral, with all the spires and organ pipes reaching up. And finally I thought it looked very much like a gigantic cave with no roof.

There were a lot of nooks and crannies in the walls. It wouldn't have surprised me to find an actual cave. The next picture is from inside one of the nooks, looking up.

I'm not sure how fun it would be to camp there, especially in the summer, since there are no trees whatsoever. But we agreed it might be more fun when the weather cools off a bit. There were a couple of people there that looked like they were doing the off-road thing. There are hiking trails and that might be interesting to explore the area a little closer.