Hiking at Paradise Valley

Since moving to Washington, I have not had a lot of time for doing things I enjoy, mostly hiking. Now that I am getting a bit more settled here, I have been able to find a little time to explore the great outdoors in the area. Last week I went to check out a place about 10 minutes up the road called Paradise Valley Conservation area. The trails are pretty low on the intensity scale, so I as far as getting me "conditioned" for backpacking, I will need to keep looking or start filling my pack with extra weight. The trails at Paradise Valley are great for mountain biking and I am starting to get motivated to get my bike fixed up, so I can hit the trails again. Great timing as the snow is just about to hit :)

Below is a picture of me an Jaccamo on the trial. He's my little hiking buddy.

I have been taking Jaccamo here to get his wiggles out. There are lots of logs and puddles to jump over so we get those wiggles out! Since Jaccamo is a "low rider" he gets pretty muddy though.

Red Alders, covered in moss. I really like moss so it just makes me happy to be here were everything is covered in moss.

My first hike here lasted less than 2 hours and in that time I encountered the typical overcast Washington gray sky, then it was sunny with some blue sky (as seen below), 15 minutes after that it started to hail on us. Good thing we had such thick tree cover or it could have been bad.

Thanksgiving morning my dad and I took Jaccamo out for a hike out at Paradise Valley.

Homemade Cottage Cheese: Update

Confession time, so I have not been making homemade cottage cheese as often as I would like the past year or two. What has gotten me back in the habit is the need for fresh whey. You may be asking yourself, who needs fresh whey?! The answer would be, ah me!

Those who know me, have learned that I love to lacto-ferment. A key ingredient is whey, as it is used to prevent the desired product from becoming putrid or rancid and to keep the alcohol levels down. I've mucked around with fermenting dairy (yogurt, kiefer, sour cream, cottage cheese and some day I hope to conquer hard cheeses), fruits (raspberry & wild blackberry syrup) and vegetables (sauerkraut, pickled rutabagas and garlic). I have also made several lacto-fermented drinks such as Ginger ale, which is the best thing on a hot summer afternoon, and beet kvass, which is just interesting. We have a bunch of apples right now and I wanted to try making some old school apple cider, hence why I need some fresh whey.

The times I have made cottage cheese in the past year, I had to do some improvising as it was while I was out in Connecticut and Iowa and did not have all my equipment with me. There were some changes I made that were for the better I think, as they increased the tasty factor and decreased the effort on my part factor.

The first change I made was that I stopped skimming the milk and just use whole milk, cream and all. I buy unhomogenized milk so the cream raises to the top and you have to separate it out, which is not impossible but an extra step that takes time. The result was a more palatable and creamy cottage cheese with a slightly yellow tint that comes from the beta carotene in the cream (the same thing that gives butter its yellow color) Technically, cottage cheese is made from skim milk, so maybe I shouldn't call it cottage cheese if I am leaving the cream in. Honestly, I doubt anyone is reading this so there is no one to call me out on that fact ;)

A bit of a history lesson. Back in the day before cream came in cartons, if you wanted cream for making butter or yummy desserts, you had to milk the cow and let the milk settle so that the cream would raise to the top and then skim the cream off the top. For a bit of perspective, in one gallon of milk only about 1/4 of the volume is cream (depending on the breed of cow, time of year and the cow's diet) leaving you stuck with about 3/4 of a gallon of skim milk to figure out what to do with. The usual thing to do would be to just drink the skim milk or to make cultured product that is going to store longer, so that is why cottage cheese is generally made from skim milk. Its a leftover!

Okay back to the cottage cheeese. The second change I made was that I stopped using the culture starters all together. I was off and on with them when I first started making cottage cheese but the last little while, I didn't have any on hand and I have just completely gotten out of the habit. For some things like cream cheese, sour cream and yogurt, I would highly recommend using a starters as the flavor is greatly influenced by "who is in there" but from my experience from cottage cheese making, if your using good quality fresh raw milk from healthy cows "the right guys" will be in there, so save yourself the five bucks.

Jaccamo loves to eat cottage cheese scraps that come his way. I don't get to excited or flattered that he likes it, since his favorite snack is compost and garbage!


Fall Sunday Morning Walk

Just down the street from our house is Brightwater, which is a water treatment plant for the county that they've turned it into less of an eyesore by making some wetland and wooded areas. Best part is that they've made some good walking trails, which we quite frequently use to walk our dog Jaccamo. Lately me and my dad have been taking Sunday morning walks and this last Sunday turned out to be particularly beautiful and sunny one. Fall is upon us though, the leaves are turning and the air is chilling, as indicated by Jaccamo sporting his jacket (he's got a thin coat of fur and a mild streak of vanity). Jaccamo is a good dog, most of the time, so he quite often gets to walk off leash.

This is me and my Pa, at the top of the hill at Brightwater

View from the hill. The night before my dad and I sat on top of the hill and watch a mess of crows fly over for about 10 mins or more, it was a lot of crows!

This is the view from the top of the hill looking down toward where we live. Its somewhere in that mess of beautiful trees. You can also see Jaccamo is smelling for some critters in the grass.