Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cheese - another way to keep it local

The Portland Press Herald published this article recently about the localvore simplicity of homemade cheese. I found this article through the blog of the Maine Cheese Collective. I recently published the recipe from Gourmet for homemade mozzarella cheese, but the uncanny timing of this article can't go unnoticed. I just returned from a week long trip to New York City, where I was able to dine on any ethnic food I could choose. From American to Italian to Indian to Brazilian and ending with an American Australian - my final meal one morning in Brooklyn was markedly the best. My daughter's Godmother and I ate in Greenpoint at Five Leaves and it was a treat to say the least. The cafe which opened 7 months ago was financially backed by the late Heath Ledger, another yummy favorite of mine. I chose for breakfast the Sage scrambled organic Eggs w/aged cheddar, which served on a roll but the swirly herbed eggs made the most beautiful sandwich I have ever eaten. But my friend's choice was even more stunning: house made ricotta with fresh thyme, chestnut honey, figs, Maldon sea salt and fruit bread. It was heaven in a bowl and an inspiration for the things to come. Before I move along to the point of this blog I must say that everybody should go and eat at Five Leaves. The experience I had at Five Leaves was a reminder that some day we will keep bees and I will make cheese. So when I returned home last night and read through the blog posts on my dashboard, discovering that the Portland Press Herald had written an article titled, "Another way to keep it local? Say cheese", I knew I had come full circle. So without further ado, here are the recipes.


1 gallon whole milk, pasteurized or raw
1 teaspoon citric acid
1 teaspoon salt

In a large stockpot, combine milk, acid and salt. Heat to 185 to 195 degrees, stirring often. Do not boil.

As soon as the curds and whey separate, turn off the heat. The whey should look somewhat clear rather than milky. Let sit for 10 minutes. Line a colander with cheese cloth and place in a large bowl. Ladle the curds into the cloth. Tie the corners of the cloth together and hang for 20 to 30 minutes.

You can hang the cloth from a knob on a kitchen cabinet or use a wooden spoon through the knot to hang over a deep container.

Eat immediately or refrigerate for up to two weeks.

Makes 3 to 4 cups (11/2 to 2 pounds).

As a parting shot, and reminder to go to Five Leaves, my favorite part of the decor was the bathroom door which though baffling at first approach, turns out to be a recycled boiler door.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Burt's Bees and Happy Green Bee

Any one who strives for the greater good ranks high on my list and one of my favorite companies that do this is the local Burt's Bees. Recently, I happily discovered the children's clothing endeavor they have started a few years ago. Happy Green Bee, is a baby clothes line designed for comfort in the hope that is inspires more organic cotton growth in the U.S. One of my favorite parts about their website is the online factory store where you can buy discounted products! Burt's Bees began in 1984 and has maintained their strong commitment to the environment . Happy green Bee was started in with the mission to create gender-free (yea!) organic (yea again!) children's clothing with sustainable manufacturing practices (hooray!). Their efforts were to meet and increase the demand for organic children's clothing that contribute in positive ways to the welfare of our planet. What else can I ask for as a parent and an ecologist!?


New England Cartographics, of Amherst Massachusetts, reuses their surplus U.S. Government topographic maps by turning them into envelopes and stationary. These unique and affordable mailers are a surprise every time - you never know what area of the U.S. you will receive. The few of these I have I have cherished for years, to the point that I have photocopied some of them in order to preserve the ones I have! These make great gifts as well!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Responsible Paper?

I have found a paper company, Mohawk Paper , that matches a lot of I am looking for in an paper supply company. Independently owned Mohawk is headquartered in Cohoes, New York. In 2005, Mohawk acquired the Fine Papers business from International Paper, which included the respected Strathmore, Beckett, Via, and BriteHue brands. Today Mohawk operates three mills (six paper machines) with over 175,000 tons capacity. Mohawk is also known in the industry for its high environmental standards and sustainable practices. The mill offers sustainable paper choices certified by FSC and Green Seal, independent, nonprofit organizations dedicated to environmental standard setting, product certification, claims substantiation, and public education. In addition, Mohawk is one of the first major manufacturing companies to match a significant amount of its electricity with RECs from windpower projects.As of June 1, 2007, Mohawk Fine Papers has increased its purchase of wind-generated electricity RECs to 100,000,000 kWh annually. This represents 100% of all of the electric energy used for all of Mohawk’s manufacturing, converting and distribution operations in New York and Ohio. In 2003 Mohawk became one the first large-scale production facilities in the United States to use non-polluting wind-generated electricity.

100% of the electricity used to manufacture all of Mohawk's paper is matched with Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). Green-e, the nation’s leading independent certification and verification program for renewable energy products, certifies the RECs to be sure that they meet strict environmental and consumer protection standards. has an article about this company too.

Bagasse is better than Biopolymers

Let's face it, unless something catastrophic changes in this world, all the people in the world are not going to opt to use a reusable cup, for those frequent trips to Starbucks. I most certainly did not turn down that cold draft beer when served to me in a plastic cup this past winter. So, until that catastrophe comes though, we need to seriously rethink disposable products we are using.

I have spent the past several hours looking into this whole corn based plastic dilemma and it's farcical biodegradability claim and have discovered that our picnic options can be less taxing on the landfills. Bio-polymers, or the bio-plastics like PLA made from corn, might be renewable but they are not sustainable in terms of waste or byproducts.

Bagasse on the other hand, derived from the byproducts of sugarcane use, is essentially a waste product that once cost sugar mills additional costs for disposal. This fiber, left over after the juice has been squeezed out of sugarcane stalks, is how used as a biomass. It holds promise as a fuel source since as it can produce more than enough heat energy to supply the needs of a common sugar mill. A waste product, it is also used as a locally-grown source for manufacturing cellulose ethanol.

offers new possibilities for disposable or reusable products without the lasting reminder in the landfill. Sugarcane is renewable annually, is widely cultivated in several countries with developing economies, is a convenient way of clearing a waste product, and requires minimal processing to turn it into a usable and high strength paper product.
Paper vs. plastic was the selling point for me. Bagasse products can be found at , where I will also be ordering my business supplies from.

Corn to the rescue? I think not.

This is a follow up to my prior post "How Green is It"in which I ranted about the suspicious label of biodegradable on a plastic drinking cup and the disbelief I had in PLA and other corn based "fix-its".

Corn is becoming the ubiquitous fix all for our nation- from packaging to plastics to animal feed - finding far too many unnatural entry points into our product based life. Just because it is made out of corn does not mean that it is natural, nor biodegradable. Maybe I am a purist, but I do not think I am along to believe that biodegrading is what should be happen naturally, as in our compost heaps, and not in some large scale industrial composter (which has it's own very large carbon foot print). In this article, the Smithsonian looked into the misleading notion of biodegradable plastics which is a farce. . It may be a cost effective solution, (in the beginning, it cost $200 to make a pound of PLA; now it’s less than $1) but it is not a solution without it's own environmental problems. “It was a big step backward for the biodegradability movement,” as the article discusses of the advent of the biodegradable bag, “Whole communities abandoned the concept of biodegradable bags as a fraud.” While PLA is a good place to start, it presents us with it's own subset of problems. So, yes, as PLA advocates say, corn plastic is “biodegradable”, but in reality very few consumers have access to the sort of composting facilities that can make it biodegrade. Regardless of it's misleading biodegradable label, it is more often than not listed as a #7 plastic and therefore will end up in a landfill or incinerator like the majority of our nations garbage. The fact is that we need far better alternatives and processes to replace PLA.

To see the entire article, click the link below.
Corn Plastic to the Rescue

Wal-Mart and others are going green with "biodegradable" packaging made from corn. But is this really the answer to America's throwaway culture?
By Elizabeth Royte
Photographs by Brian Smale
Smithsonian magazine, August 2006

Getting to know Goats

I need to know more about goats, and if anyone can help me, I need all the help I can get. It has been a life long dream to be a goat owner. It actually started out as a family joke, when Mom wanted a goat so badly because of her own memories of her grandparents farm and the goats they had. Thanks to Mom's love of goats, I always promised that I would be the child who would get her goats. Unfortunately, Mom passed away before I could make the dream come true, but I promise, the dream will come true. One of my favorite errands to run with Mom as a child was to take our weekly trip to "The Cheese Shop" - yup that is what it was named and we LOVED it! Unlike the other members of our family, Mom and I loved goat cheese. I may name the first goat HiHo, after Mom, but if that's too emotional I will take my sister Mush's advice and name the first goat Feta! If I do name the first one HiHo, I will then name the rest of the flock, decided by temperament, after each of the 7 dwarfs!

As for what kinds of goats I want, I know I want Nigerian Dairy goats. I fell in love with these goats last fall at The Common Ground Fair when I went to a milking demonstration put on by the woman who runs Painted Pepper Farm. Nigerians are small and manageable - perfect for a family farm.

Books I am interested in for researching are the following.

Books from Maine

I have decided to take a break from the stressful things in my life today, and focus on laundry and catching up on some long put-off blogging. The intention of this blog has always been to document my process and research for beginning my own business. While it is a long term plan, that involves moving to our own family farm, much of my research involves finding plants, livestock and products to grow, make and sell once I have the business off the ground. The business will focus on sustainability and local products. One of my favorite products, as a researcher, teacher and parent, is of course books. In December's Down East magazine, they had in inset called "Best Books from Maine" which has been thumbed through and dog eared for far too long. So before that magazine joins the pile of magazines in my "business canvas bag" and or torn into pieces and glued into my journal, I might as well post about the books here!

By a Maine River - A Year of Looking Closely by Thomas and Lee Ann Szelog
A new book, published by Down East Books, features professional photographs of nature and wildlife along the shore of a small Maine river by photographer Tom Szelog. An evocative book that opens our eyes to how closely we live with nature even now, in this 21st century.

A Place Called Maine by Wesley McNair
24 Authors, both native and newcomers who reside and write in all reaches of Maine, write about the Maine experience, described by the Maine Sunday Telegram as"A vision of the Pine Tree State that is, at once, vivid, recognizable, and frank... a rich tapestry."

The Year of the Goat - 40,000 miles and the quest for the Perfect Cheese by Margaret Hathaway
I take a particular interest in this book because of my pending research on goats and cheese making. This book is a great starting place for my research on raising goats and making cheese. Part food memoir and part picturesque travel narrative, this book marries the author's twin obsessions with food and all things goat and tells the story of one couple's fascinating journey in search of peace, pastures, and the perfect goat cheese.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Watts in the Wind

A month or so ago, during a ski day at the local mountain, my amazing friend Thais told me that there were some sexy new windmills up at a farm on her way from home. Low and behold, on my way to another hockey game for my son, I saw the windmills gracefully aligned with the side of the barn of Springmont Farm. My heart was a flutter as I saw it and I smiled knowing that the age of clean energy was slowly taking hold for the home and small business owners in Maine. Installed in late August, the turbines are providing power to the barn and the chicken operation, allowing excess power to be fed back into the CMP grid. Using the turbines has greatly reduced the amount of oil the farm burns.
And to my delight, the spring 2009 volume of Lake Living has one of these wind turbines gracing it's cover. Residential wind generators are popping up all over the place thanks to the local North Conway, New Hampshire business Green Alternative Energy LLC.
Given the right site and wind speeds, you too might be able to harness the wind and make free energy for your family.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

My dye died.

A quick note to my readers, if I actually have any, that the spinach and coffee dyes failed miserably. The blueberry was nice, but the turmeric was too thick. We resorted to the time tested method after all! Paas be damned, I would like to introduce you to my friend - Food coloring.

Home Made Easter Eggs

I was looking for homemade Easter Egg dyes to accompany my food coloring options. With a tight budget these days, and a lot of our meals coming from what we have on hand in the freezer or pantry, I will be adding a few of these ideas for my Easter eggs as well.

BLUE: Make a Blueberry Dye using 1 cup of mashed blueberries.
GREEN: Make a Spinach Leaf Dye using 1 cup of chopped spinach.
YELLOW: Make a Ground Turmeric Dye using 3-4 Tbsp. of ground turmeric.
BROWN: Make a Coffee Dye substituting 1 quart of brewed black coffee for 1 quart water.
  1. Put the recommended amount of fruit, vegetable or spice in the pot.
  2. Add about 1 cup of water per 1 cup of food, and 2 Tbsp. of white vinegar to pot (water level should be about 1" above ingredients).
  3. Bring to a boil, lower heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Strain out excess ingredients with a cheesecloth or coffee filter for a smooth liquid dye.
  5. Let cool to room temperature before dyeing eggs.