Friday, October 19, 2007

Time travel moment

This morning we had one of those moments when a few things intersected and I suddenly thought "holy moly, my life is so different from what I would have imagined 15 years ago." I felt like we needed a tourist sign at the top of our driveway saying "Living History Site."

Our friends / neighbours / unschooling sidekicks dropped by. They were picking up two hens. We''re getting so many eggs, and we know they're short on hens, so we'd offered them a couple of our red rock crosses. So there we were by the chicken coop, chasing the hens, checking for eggs, and I was passing them a dozen of our surplus eggs as well. And they were passing us a gallon of fresh raw milk from their cow. And a container of cream. And meanwhile the kids were all a few feet away watching Chuck in his leather apron pinging away on the anvil at some red-hot steel in the blacksmithy. The hens were clucking and cackling. The kids were chatting and giggling together. For a moment it seemed we could have been 19th century neighbours.

Then I noticed the pickup truck in the driveway and the computer screen glowing through the window of the house.

We made butter, yogourt and kefir today with the milk and cream. The cream got shaken up in a simple Rubbermaid shaker by various family members for 10 or 15 minutes until the butter and buttermilk separated. The buttermilk got decanted off (above). Then we rinsed the butter in fresh cold water. We chose not to salt our butter, so next I pressed it with a dinner knife to shape it into a solid mass and squeeze out any lingering water. (You can do this with fresh store-bought whipping cream too if you don't have a neighbourly cow.)

Finally I packed the butter into our butter bell (right). I'm in love with my butter bell. It keeps butter fresh, protected from cats and other critters, and at exactly the right consistency for spreading. It's a two-part contraption. The outer pot has about a third of a cup of water in the bottom of it. The inner pot gets packed with butter and is then inverted into the outer pot so that the water acts as a sort of protective moat. If you are desperate to have your own butter bell, you can order one, along with any of hundreds of lovely hand-picked books, from Chinaberry Books, one of my favourite on-line retailers.

Speaking of inanimate objects I love, I phoned my camera today. It is patiently sitting in Vancouver waiting for a part and expects to be home within 2 weeks. It misses me, I think. The feeling is mutual.


  1. I can't remember how it came about, but in a recent conversation Alex was talking about Chuck being a blacksmith. "Yes", I said, "and he's also a doctor." "No he's not" was the reply. "Noah said his dad was a blacksmith." Only with great difficulty have I been able to persuade him that Chuck's day job is looking after the health of New Denver and surrounds.

  2. I always wondered how Laura Ingalls Wilder kept her butter soft and fresh! What a simple and ingenious contraption! Or is it simply ingenious?

    When N. was a cubscout, we made butter from whipped cream--there were no cows allowed in North Albuquerque Acres.:)

    Now we buy our butter from the "Merc" in Tijeras. It is local and fresh, but still not home made.

  3. Guess what my kids are doing right now? Shaking away at a jar full of cream, and you inspired us. I have always wanted to try it, but I never have heavy cream when I think about it.


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