Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
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How to Make Homemade Butter

wpid CAM03139 1024x759 How to Make Homemade Butter

When we first learned about the benefits of raw milk (and the harm of pasteurized milk from non-A2 cows) we decided it was worth switching to healthier dairy products. Buying a herd share was a no-brainer first step. Our herd share enables us to obtain raw milk from the cow we lease and yogurt and cheese made from her milk. We’re not big milk drinkers so keeping our consumption (both for straight drinking and baking) to 1 gallon a week works fine for us. Unfortunately we’re not able to purchase pre-made butter at the same time.

That’s too bad because though we don’t drink much milk, we do use a lot of butter. A lot. I seriously considered purchasing a second herd share just to have a enough cream for butter making. Unfortunately that’s not in the budget at this time. So instead, I’ve been making a habit of skimming the cream off our weekly gallon of milk and freezing it. I skimmed the milk by pouring it out of a gallon milk jug and into a gallon container with a wide mouth and lid. After a day or so the cream rises to the top and easy to scoop off. (You can see the cream line in the picture below).

wpid PicsArt 1395688899006 1024x759 How to Make Homemade Butter

After four weeks of skimming I ended up with about 7 cups of cream. These jars look very full, and they are, because of course the cream expands as it freezes. I want to be sure to say that I only filled them about ¾ full before placing them in the freezer. Filling them to the top would cause them to burst.

wpid CYMERA 20140324 135231 How to Make Homemade Butter

After collecting to jars’ worth of cream, I decided it was time for my maiden voyage into butter-making.

First I put the frozen jars into the fridge (on the bottom shelf because it is the warmest place in my refrigerator). I couldn’t tell you exactly how long it took the cream to thaw, but it was somewhere between one-and-a-half and two days.  With thawed cream on hand, I was ready to begin.

How to Make Butter from Scratch

These are the tools and ingredients I used:

  • 3.5 cups of cream (approximate)
  • A blender or food processor
  • 1 cup of ice water
  • A strainer
  • A medium to large sized bowl
  • A spatula
  • Paper towel or a cheesecloth
  • Wax or parchment paper
  • Bakers twine
  • Salt (optional)
For instructions and pictures, please visit our website by clicking here.
 
 

Let it Grow! Singing to Your Plants

So you’ve been singing Let it Go from Disney’s movie Frozen all day, every day? Yeah… me too.

It’s not just because it’s a catchy song that is bombarding us from everywhere (although that helps). I personally suffer from a syndrome called can’t-stop-singing-and-don’t-even-realize-I’m-doing-it. Just ask my husband and former co-workers… they’ll tell you. My condition often manifests itself in a rare condition I refer to as Disney-Tourettes. It’s the best way I can think of to describe my inclination to randomly, frequently, loudly burst into Disney song (and sometimes dance). A Whole New World (Aladdin), Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid) and I Just Can’t Wait to be King (The Lion King) frequently worm their way out of my mouth. It has proven embarrassing a time or two, but at this point my life I just choose to embrace it.

That being said, it can still be really (really) annoying personally to have songs stuck in your head. They just go on and on, don’t they my friend?

Further compounding the situation is this: If you’re not sick of the sound of your voice warbling ala Queen Elsa, someone else in your life probably is. Regardless of the quality or quantity of your singing, I’m happy to share with you that an audience exists that will never tire of hearing you bellow Disney tunes!

Your plants.

Seriously.

Singing to Plants

I first heard about this idea in high school. I haven’t been lying to you when I’ve shared that I love a good experiment, as further evidenced by my teenage (but admittedly not scientific) test to see if singing to plants really works. First I just sang while I cleaned my room. I experienced early onset of can’t-stop-singing-and-don’t-even-realize-I’m-doing-it syndrome, so it was pretty convenient. I observed that singing near my plant caused it to noticeably perk up! Cool!

Next I tried playing this archaic thing called a Compact Disc (otherwise called a CD for those of you who aren’t historians) while I was away. I couldn’t tell you how long I played it or exactly what it was (although at that point in my life it was likely either the soundtrack to Titanic or something by Boyz II Men). What I can tell you is that when I returned my spider plant was noticeably learning toward the radio. Well isn’t that neat!?

Naturally my next step was to move the radio to the other side of the plant. Sure enough when I returned the plant was leaning toward the radio again – the opposite direction from its lean the previous attempt.

I’d like to cite this little experiment from my childhood as the reason why I shamelessly sing while gardening, but you and I both know that’s just not the case. (Couldn’t keep it in, Heaven knows I’ve tried.) My constant crooning isn’t going to work like Miracle Grow, but it’s probably having a positive effect. The question is – how?

Carbon Dioxide or Vibration

I’m familiar with two different theories about why singing to your plants could be beneficial. The first theory is that the carbon dioxide emitted as humans sing helps plants to photosynthesize more efficiently, thus making them stronger and helping them to grow faster.

That’s a reasonable theory, but consider this: My plant showed noticeable change listening to Celine Dion declare “My heart will go on and on!” through a machine and not in my bedroom. No humans present. No carbon dioxide emitted. Yet the fact that the music had an effect on the plant, whether beneficial or not, was undeniable. Fortunately those crazy kids at MythBusters took a much more scientific approach to this question and yielded an interesting result. Their findings suggest that the effect of singing (or talking) on plants may have much more to do with vibration than breathing.

Myth Busters Experiment

In this experiment, two soundtracks of spoken words (not singing) were used.

“The skeptical MythBusters procured 60 pea plants and divided them into three greenhouse groups. Then, they recorded two soundtracks — one of loving praise and one of cruel insults — and played them on repeat in two separate greenhouses. A third greenhouse remained mum as an experimental control.

To give the myth a fighting chance of flourishing, the team charted the plants’ growth over 60 days. Afterward, the MythBusters determined the winning greenhouse by comparing plant masses from the three groups. To their surprise, the silent greenhouse performed poorest, producing lower biomass and smaller pea pods than the other two. Although there was no difference in plant quality between the nice greenhouse and the mean greenhouse, the soundtracks seemed to produce a positive effect in both.

Based on the plausible myth, botanists might want to chat with their plants more often, even if what they have to say isn’t all-too friendly.”

Other Experiments

The folks at MythBusters aren’t the only researchers who’ve looked into this idea. Several studies, some scientific and some more general, have been done. There’s no point in recounting gobs of them in this brief article, but I did want to share one I found very interesting. The authors of the blog Dry Stone Garden write:

“A 2007 paper from scientists at South Korea’s National Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology proposed that two genes involved in a plant’s response to light—known as rbcS and Ald—are turned on by music played at 70 decibels. ‘This is about the level of a normal conversation,’ says Marini. The Korean researchers found differing responses depending on the frequency of the sound. The higher the frequency, the more active was the gene response.”

To my knowledge no one has conclusively determined why or how well singing (or talking) to plants helps them grow, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The next time you feel like channeling your inner Elsa, wander out to your garden. Your neighbors might not thank you, but your tomatoes will.

Did you like this article? Find more just like it at our website www.arcadia-farms.net!

 
 

Last Frost Dates for West Michigan

Wondering when it will be safe to transplant your seedlings out into the garden? Here’s a handy chart to give you a guideline for the Last Frost Date in your area.

The Last Frost Date is the date after which it is generally safe to plant outdoors without fear of frost. Some plants can handle (and maybe even benefit from) a smidge of frost, such as broccoli, peas and chard. Warm season plants such as tomatoes, squash and peppers will be damaged, possibly beyond recovery, by frost.

If you live in Michigan you already know that the weather can be fickle, so treat these dates as a guideline only and be sure to check the weather forecast before transplanting your precious plants out into the wide world!

 

Last Frost Dates West Michigan Last Frost Dates for West Michigan

 

 

 
 

Give that farmer a tip!

moonique dairy cows kriannmon Give that farmer a tip!

Dairy cows from Moo-nique
{Image Credit}
Kriannmon on Flickr

Today I wanted give you a brief peek into a sweet conversation that recently happened at our house.

Owen has been experiencing some growing pains lately. I heard once that a dose of extra calcium can help to soothe growing pains, so I always offer him a glass of milk. Maybe it’s an old wives tale… maybe it’s all in his head… but he usually calms down and goes to sleep afterwards.

The other night at bedtime I was laying down with him and he said “Mom, can I have a glass of milk?”

“We’re all out” I replied.

“Can’t you just go to the store and get some?” he asked.

“No, because in a couple of days we’re going to get more and it would be wasteful to spend extra money on milk from the store when we’re already paying for milk from the farm, especially since it’s kind of expensive.”

He paused for a moment.

“Umm… Mom? Wouldn’t it make more sense to buy milk from the store?”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “Do you mean ‘Wouldn’t it cost less money?’”

“Yeah!” he replied “Couldn’t you save money and just get our milk from the store? Wouldn’t that be better?”

“Well, yes, it would cost less money” I said, “but it wouldn’t be better. Here are a couple of things...

Click here to read the rest of the conversation. (It's cute... I promise!)

 
 

2014 Maple Syrup Season Part 1

wpid CYMERA 20140313 153110 2014 Maple Syrup Season Part 1

It’s maple sugarin’ season in Michigan! If I had been on my toes I would have tapped my trees on Thursday, March 6 as the weather conditions were just right for running sap – cold nights and above-freezing, sunny days. But alas, I’m a busy mom and I didn’t get to it until Tuesday, March 11. It was a beautiful, relatively warm, sunny day… and then that evening our lovely Michigan weather crashed from 40 degrees and sun to windchills below zero. (Hey, Old Man Winter – take your prozac, ok!?) Today the temperature has climbed to 22 degrees and tomorrow’s forecast currently calls for a high near 50. All of this up and down cold creates some serious weather-whiplash for us humans, butt the cold nights and warm days are great weather for collecting maple sap.

I won’t go into a ton of detail about how, when and why to collect maple sap because I wrote a pretty comprehensive post about it last year. (Click here to check it out!). This year I just wanted to give you quick update and to let you know that we’re trying something a wee bit different.

Click here to read the rest of this article.
 
 

Green Eggs & Ham Popovers Recipe

dye free green eggs and ham popover recipe

St. Patrick’s Day is one week away. And earlier this month some of us celebrated the birthday of children’s author Dr. Seuss. To celebrate both I’ve created a green eggs and ham pop-over recipe that’s family friendly and dye-free. Our kids loved them! Consider adding these tasty green egg pastries to a St. Paddy’s day brunch or even dinner.

You could eat them here… or there… or anywhere!

Click here for the recipe!

dye free green eggs and ham popover recipe

st. patrick's day recipe

Here’s our spinach-only version!

 
 

Carrot Butter Recipe

carrot butter recipe

Earlier this winter I made crock-pot apple butter. We’ve used it on toast and to sweeten our plain yogurt. Our foster-daughter seems to especially like it this way (in yogurt). Since she’s a bit of a picky eater when it comes to vegetables, I’ve had to find some creative ways to sneak them into her food. One day while slipping some pureed carrots into her bowl of apple-butter-and-yogurt I had an epiphany moment: What if I made vegetable butter?

I considered several veggies: Turnips, sweet potatoes, parsnips. At the end of the day I decided to start by experimenting with carrots. The result is good. The recipe below calls for apple juice or cider at two different stages of the process. I personally used apple cider vinegar during the second stage. Because of this, the carrot butter turned out a wee-bit tart (only a wee-bit!). I still like it – and I think it’s heavenly in yogurt – but I would  probably enjoy it more with bread and butter if I had used juice instead of vinegar.

At any rate, here is the recipe for carrot butter. Even as I type this I’m working on a crock-pot version of parsnip butter (or rather, the crock pot is working on it!). I can’t wait to share the results with you soon!

carrot butter recipe

carrot butter recipe

carrot butter recipe

carrot butter recipe

Click here for the recipe and more photos!
 
 

Introduction to Gardening Workshop

introduction to gardening workshop

I’m thrilled to announce that Arcadia Farms will be hosting an Introduction to Gardening Workshop on Saturday, March 22 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm at the Holiday Inn West in Kalamazoo! Participants must pre-register at www.arcadia-farms.net/classes.

If you’re a new gardener who’s had a difficult time getting started, or if you’ve always wanted a garden but don’t know where to start, this class is for you!

Participants will learn…

  • Basic gardening terms
  • The best place and method for gardening at their location
  • Plant combinations to avoid or to encourage
  • Organic methods for growing, fertilizing and protecting their crops
  • How and when to both select and start seeds
  • How to transplant seedlings into the garden
  • How and when to water, weed, fertilize and apply pest control
  • How to make compost and use it in the garden
  • Resources for further study and support

We’ll have hands-on exercises to increase your comfort level. You’ll go home not only with one or two starter seedlings, but also with the inspiration and confidence you need to make this year’s garden a success! I hope you’ll consider joining us or passing this information on to a friend who may be interested.

The cost is $38 per person and space is limited. For a printable flyer, click here.

 
 
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