Friday, June 15, 2012

How long does yogurt keep unrefrigerated?

I've been making my own yogurt for years now and am interested in knowing how long it will keep unrefrigerated. Yogurt probably originated as a way to keep fresh milk for longer in warm weather and I'd like to know just how long it can go. The Internet was remarkably unhelpful in answering this question, and it will be good to know how it works given my specific conditions anyway, so I'm experimenting.

I made a batch of yogurt on Friday, June 8th. (To make yogurt, heat the milk to 180F to kill bacteria, cool it to 115-120, add yogurt saved from the last batch, and keep it warm in an oven or cooler for several to many hours to allow the cultures to grow.) In this case I used Meadowbrook Farms pasteurized, homogenized whole milk (some fresh and some more than a week old and slightly sour) and kept it in a warm cooler for about 10 hours before moving two 8-ounce jars into my basement root cellar.

My root cellar is not yet designed to stay as cold or dry as it should, but it is significantly cooler than the rest of the house in June. The temperature was around 67. I pulled out the first jar on the morning of June 12th, four days after I put it down there. There was no mold or evidence of other nastiness, though there was a small amount of whey on top which rarely happens when it's refrigerated. It smelled stronger than usual and tasted a bit more sour, which I was expecting because it would have continued to ferment for longer than typical. (Refrigerator temperatures stop fermentation quickly but I'm not sure how much/ how quickly it continues at temperatures that are warmer than that but below 90F.) It was good though and didn't make me sick.

Jar number two came out on the afternoon of June 15th, seven days post-incubation. It had separated slightly so its texture was curdier- it still was more like yogurt than cottage cheese, but it wasn't as smooth as yogurt usually is. Its taste and aroma were similar to that of Day Four, but I'll admit that taking the first bite required steeling myself rather more firmly. My body has registered no distress however, which means that the next batch of yogurt I make will include samples to be tested up to two weeks out.

Variables other than temperature and length of storage may affect how yogurt keeps. Cooling after incubation, incubation time, fat content, age and type of culture, and age of milk come to mind. I'll start playing with them once I figure out how long it takes for this yogurt to go bad on me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Twin Trees 2011

Day 1: Traffic makes the drive a half hour longer than usual, but the last stretch was enhanced by a sign in Wevertown reading "Eggs so fresh you'll want to slap the hen" and a game that involved A laughing so hard that she shrieked, "You're making me drool!" "Piano Man" comes on the radio and Dan complains that radio stations only play three different Billy Joel songs.

Day 2: Overhearing the kids playing Go Fish, Dan and I contemplate pick-up lines following that format. "Do you have a rhinoceros?" is deemed too intimidating. C goes to Raquette Lake with his grandparents before Jeff, Sandy, Robin, and Iain arrive. Our campfire includes Violent Femmes sing-alongs and s'mores, and it is determined that Iain has not inherited his father's enmity toward marshmallows. It is also determined that s'mores made with Rolos are not as awesome as they should be.

Day 3: Dan makes omelets and fresh pesto with basil, parsley, and garlic he grew himself. We get sunburns while visiting Hooper Mine and Thirteenth Lake but blueberries provide adequate compensation. Dan attempts to take pin-up shots of me in my swimsuit but I have a bad attitude. (I then contemplate creating a nude Twin Trees calendar as a fundraiser, but can't think who would buy it.)

The old guests head for home and new ones arrive. Corrina, Donny, Dylan, and Arielle get settled in just in time for thunderstorms to keep us up all night.

Day 4: It's still pouring when we wake up. The kids are cheerfully but noisily playing inside and thus I feel rather sorry for Gene when he arrives for the day, but luckily it clears up enough to go to Thirteenth Lake and Hooper Mine. Yes, again.

And again, old guests leave and new ones replace them: C returns before Steve and Denali arrive. Steve, tasked with sorting peas while we cook dinner, is wholly unimpressed with Dan's methods. We consume a shocking number of desserts, since in addition to our own ice cream, we'd managed to wrangle chocolate zucchini cake, banana cake, lemon pie, and fruit from our previous guests and cookies and watermelon from our current ones. The boys play Settlers.

Day 5: We attempt to hike to Peaked Pond, but the kids’ enthusiasm for exploring and loon-watching kept us from reaching it. We only made it back to the Thirteenth Lake swimming area (yes, again) after I challenged them to walk for an entire ten minutes without stopping to eat. Our guests stay later than planned because C and Denali become immersed in NetHack.

Day 6: I beg for and am granted a day in which we don’t drive anywhere, despite Dan’s itching to find cell service. We walk to the creek across from the fire station and bicker about the safety hazards of throwing rocks. A hummingbird visits each hosta flower in turn. The kids complain about the homemade frozen pizza but acknowledge that it’s better than the pizzeria pizza we so cruelly subject them to on occasion. Everyone but me reads Garfield books that some sadist left behind. While making s’mores around the campfire, C sings along to a repeating song, and I wonder how much of his sing-along hatred comes from not remembering the words.

Day 7: We venture down the hill for the first time since Friday. The grocery store, to our surprise, has both organic yogurt and an aisle labeled “Warehouse Snacks.” We explore gift/ antique/ junk shops and the burnt-out ruins of the transfer station.

The heat causes my blood pressure to plummet. Having finished all of my own books I make selections from the camp bookshelf, and determine that John Grisham is a better choice than James Patterson.

(I cannot complain about the weather, though. This was the only unbearably hot day and other than Day 4, every day was sunny and gorgeous.)

A randomly decides to sleep in a tent by herself and stays there all night despite a noisy rainstorm. Dan however does not sleep at all, worrying about his 6-year-old out there. It was a little jarring to send off a little girl wearing a nightgown that matches her doll’s and carrying four stuffed animals to sleep outside alone.

Day 8: Dan cooks up potatoes and eggs for brunch, with the feeble hope that it’ll keep the kids from being hungry for an entire hour. C hadn’t yet climbed Hooper Mine on this trip, so off we went (yes, again), stopping (yes, again) at the lake to swim on the way home. We lazed around for the rest of the day. I flip open a magazine and read, “It can be tough to decide among bikes priced in the $2100 to $2700 range. Cyclists who find themselves faced with this budgetary limit on their hobby have to carefully evaluate how to get the most value for their money,” and giggle at the arrogance.

Tragedy! The baby zebra from the Go Fish game falls through a crack in the porch floor. A wails because “it will miss its mommy.” Dan is delighted when C volunteers to be the one to go under the porch after it. C find the crawlspace “awesome!” and collects both the zebra and an old used glowstick, which I refuse to let him bring home.

Day 9: I give C the next book in the series he’s reading and this renders him unwilling to go to the river with us. We drag him along anyway and A and he have a fantastic time swimming, collecting rocks, throwing rocks, exploring “Itchy Island,” and watching an osprey. Heidi, Brian, and Guinevere stop by for lunch before we head for home. “Big Shot” comes on the radio and Dan is delighted that it’s not one of the standard three he listed on the ride up. I’ve unpacked and done most of the laundry, but think it’ll take a few more showers before we’ve washed all the lake sand off.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Community activism with young children

My kids are old enough that it’s no longer an imposition to leave them with one parent or a babysitter for dinner and bedtime, which makes it easier to attend meetings and events in the evening. My husband and I also have enough low-stress time together now that it’s less imperative to spend evenings together. But that wasn’t always the case and it was frustrating at times to be unable to participate in activist events or the planning thereof. Other people clearly have the same issue; an unfortunate number of organizations’ memberships consist primarily of students/ twentysomethings and people over 50 whose kids are mostly grown, with a big gap in the middle of families-with-kids.

Organizations can arrange things differently to better attract families, but this makes for difficult scheduling around workdays, and when it comes down to it people with young children usually have less to devote to big projects than other demographics. The limits on what families have to offer given the realities of life with young children can make active participation in traditional organizations less viable even with accommodations. So here are some things we did:

For the record, organizers are often friendly to children; my son attended innumerable meetings and events of Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace. Most children can be trained to play quietly for short periods of time, and he could look at books/ draw/ eat/ play with small toys on the floor in between breaks of actively engaging with a parent outside. As infants, my kids were often more happy being paced around in the backs of meetings than at home. If one parent can bring the baby along with them that leaves the at-home parent with some breathing room.

We formed a Roots & Shoots chapter that enabled us to focus on community projects with our kids and other families. Ours was based at Five Rivers and opted mainly for environment-themed projects but the program is flexible enough to allow for a lot of different activities. This can be done without connection to any organization or through 4-H or Girl Scouts instead, but Roots & Shoots does provide some great activism ideas.

Writing letters and making actual phone calls to politicians can still make a difference. It sometimes felt like a cop-out but my husband and I did quite a bit of that.

Something we didn’t do, but would be a good strategy, would be to work with parent-focused organizations that are more likely to include children. Schools, La Leche League, and religious groups come to mind. Turning your daytime playgroup into a political discussion group or guerrilla gardening troop is also an option.

A lot of our activism became personal. Some people discount home and lifestyle changes as meaningful on a larger scale but I disagree; I think we all should be trying to live the kinds of lives that support our values. Besides reducing our financial support for industries we don’t like, friends have made changes in their lives when they’ve seen things we’ve done. Eating and growing organic food, reducing resource waste, and minimizing exposure to toxins fit into our family lifestyle as well as our personal activism.

And I don’t discount the connections we made with neighbors and other parents as unimportant either. Community resilience is an important focus of mine, and getting to know people around town is an integral part of that. I have a number of people I would feel comfortable relying on in a personal emergency or a community disaster, and they could form the basis of future community collaborations as they become necessary.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

spring at last

I heard a lone peeper on a daytime walk today. I wonder about his strategy. Will he tire himself out before the females wake up for the night? Or get snatched up by a predator? Will his fellow insomniacs be impressed by his derring-do and seek him out while the sun shines?

Near the end of the season there's always one last frog singing his heart out, weeks after the others stop. I wonder if he's wildly optimistic, hoping for his one last chance at true "love," or insanely desperate, begging for just one single shot this season. I pretend he's singing purely with joy so I don't feel as sorry for him.

Do most male peepers lose interest after mating season? Is this one's hibernation cycle or hormone levels out of whack? Ah, variation, the root of both evolution and personal misery.

The trees here are budding but not leafing out yet. The only ones with green are the weeping willows, which are just starting to get some at their tops. Next week, I think, North Street will be arched by spring green branches.

Monday, January 10, 2011

now we are six

Guess which one of our kids has learned to equivocate?

(In the car on 787, following a conversation on what "normal" means regarding both unusual behaviors and antisocial behaviors.)

S: Do you think you're normal?
C: Hmm, yeah, I guess I think I'm pretty normal.
(A is not able to contain a snort.)
S: Do you agree with that, A?
A: Heh. Umm. Hmm.... Look, a train!

The same one who's still very little sometimes

(Several days after she received stickers "from Monkey" because she'd been wondering out loud what her toy monkey would give her for Christmas.)

A: Did you help Monkey write the note on my present?
D: Er, yes, I don't think Monkey can do that on his own.
A: Yes, that is true.

and writes notes like Christopher Robin

Dry erase board on her door:

Not at home. At scool.

and is quite reasonable perturbed by non-phonetic spelling.

A (Pointing at songbook): There should be an E at the end.
S: Huh?
A: There should be an E at the end.
S: Of "Christ"?
A: Yes.
S: Oh, because it's a long I sound?
A: Yes.
S: That would make sense. English words are often spelled in strange and inconsistent ways.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Twin Trees

Day 1: We can barely fit everything in the car since we decided to bring all of our food and enough clothing to mostly avoid laundry for ten days. We also tote a surprisingly high maintenance monarch caterpillar, a whoopee cushion, and many many books.

The skies darken as we hit Lake George but it only sprinkles a little. The kids and Dan grab slippers and blankets as I unpack them, complaining of cold. It is 70. On a milkweed reconnaissance mission, Dan steps on a yellow jacket nest. A’s two stings are fine, but Dan’s four swell alarmingly, so we make an unplanned family fun trip to North Creek for Benadryl, find milkweed in the parking lot, dance to a local band on the sidewalk, and stop at the river on the way home, where Dan refuses to take the Benadryl.

Dan declares that people shouldn’t run around actin’ like hippies if they don’t practice free love. We both desperately hope that Lynyrd Skynyrd made a whole lot of money from the fake (and egregious) Sweet Home Alabama.

Day 2: It rains. C finds a heavy metal station. We set him to work repairing torn cushions. We realize that we can not see the fireplace from our bed in the Rose Room and consider making a life-size mural of it on the unfinished section of drywall.

Dan suggests that the book I’m reading, The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time, could be redone to good effect as “one sexual liaison at a time.” I note that I’ve never found that to be a good community builder.

Day 3: C leaves with his grandparents. The rest of us go to Hooper Mine and Thirteenth Lake. There are many red raspberries, very few blueberries, and a couple just-ripe blackberries and thimbleberries. A draws fairies who are “smiling so hard that their long pointy teeth are showing.” The caterpillar turns green and pupates, allaying my fear that the trip had killed it (it hadn’t eaten since we got in the car). Dan decides to write a novel, gets out his computer, and goes all Jack Torrance.

Day 4: I try the plunger-and-bucket method of handwashing clothes to ensure we’ll have enough. We go into town so Dan can check his e-mail before hauling dirt to cover the new water line. I’ve finished all but one of my books and am way too tired to follow the discussion of Homo habilis DNA in the last one, so grab a 1971 book about hippie communes off the shelf.

We draft a budget, and Dan decrees that the entertainment line is more important than the savings line, which we drop to zero. Unsatisfied with the toy fairies she brought with her, A draws and cuts out several more and acts out multiple dramas with them. After she’s in bed Dan and I walk down to the brook and watch a yellow moon rise.

Day 5: We drive up to Raquette Lake to trade kids with my parents, check out their newly electrified cabin, and experience the wind at Golden Beach. I muse on the viability of growing bamboo as a building material and Dan says we’d need a guard gorilla. Or panda. Upon our return, C and Dan play Settlers while I take a walk and sit on a patch of thyme, watching the creek go by and the clouds turn pink.

Day 6: I wake up without the headache I’d had for the previous 48 hours but it returns by evening. We hike to Ross Pond. C complains that:

  • We’re not going to Hooper Mine and that’s the only hike he will ever want to go on
  • He’s required to change out of his pajamas
  • Finding his water bottle is not his responsibility
  • The trail is too far from the parking lotA moth flew into him
  • The trail is too muddy
  • There are too many “malarial mosquitoes”
  • The woods at home are just as nice and easier to get to.

He eventually seemed to decide that his best strategy was to end things quickly, and ran up ahead. (I was impressed with his stamina but it made me feel very old.) I wore sneakers and learned that my fear that I now own no shoes that fit me well enough for a walk of more than a couple miles was correct (my sandals bit the dust before the trip). So when we got back I performed surgery on another pair to make room for all my toes. My parents drop off A and stop for dinner on their way home.

Day 7: Dan can’t go another minute without e-mail so we head back to North Creek. We stop by the swimming hole when he’s done; kids play, a heron visits, and I find a neat little walking path. We determine that my sinus headache may be altitude-related. I get out a puzzle but no one is willing to work on it with me.

Day 8: The phone rings at 9 a.m. and Dan expects it to be word about a job (the decision date has been pushed back three times already), but alas. We got to Hooper Mine and Thirteenth Lake (yes, C complains anyway)- it’s a beautiful day and Merganser ducks congregate on rocks. The kids bicker in the car and, thinking on the commune book I’ve been reading, it occurs to me that a major reason any lasted as long as they did was because everyone was stoned all the time and thus better able to put up with each other. I consider lifestyle changes. C brainstorms ship names. My favorite is the CKR Metaphor.

Day 9: C asks how to make Molotov cocktails; Dan objects when I begin to explain. I play in the creek with A. Dan and I disagree on whether pyromania is a human instinct. Dinner, a haphazard cleaning of the refrigerator, consists of peanuts in melted chocolate and hard boiled eggs.

Day 10: We pack and clean, finding toothpicks all over C’s room and tiny pictures of A’s everywhere. I appreciate the outhouse because it gives the children no excuse to come inside. I also appreciate the Playaways I got from the library; despite the arguments about the horror of wearing headphones, it may have been the most pleasant family car trip in our history. Home on time for the first laundry to dry before bed!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

six hours of A

Where is the sun in space?

If I mix the red and black raspberries together I can make a sauce! Every day in the summer when there are berries we can go berry-picking, and on day number one I'll make sauce for me and you, and the next day for Daddy and C, and the next day for me and you again. That way I won't have to pick so many berries on the same day. What color do you think it will be?

(Rummaging through dress-up stuff)
Friend: Ooh, can I be the cow?
A: There's no cow in princesses.

Do you know what rugby is? It's like football, but without the masks.