Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tips for living simply #2 - don't go too far

This is really a corollary of know your dreams. You could get rid of just about everything you own, and live in a practically empty space. Think of Jack's parent's home in Brokeback Mountain. Or you could get by with just enough to fit in a backpack.

Those are interesting possibilities, but for me they aren't realistic. (Maybe they are for you though. Tell us about your experience!)

Just remember that your goal isn't to get rid of everything in your life. It's to get things out of the way of achieving your dreams.

Tips for living simply #1 - know your dreams

A few years ago I realized that the stuff in my life was reducing my happiness.

I had 3 motorcycles, but only 2 of them worked. I didn't have time to fix the broken ones. I rarely rode the one that worked.

I had a large collection of tools that I aquired while working on the bikes. Some of the tools I had never used. Some of the tools I had never opened!

I had so many tools, that I couldn't remember what tools I had. So I would sometimes buy a second of a tool I had, because I didn't know I had it.

Similar patterns appeared in all of the stuff in my life.

When you turn your attention to simplifying your life, you will regularly hit some difficult question. When you can't clearly see the way through the choice, it helps to know what your dreams are.

I can't say that I have a clear, concrete description of my dreams, but I know parts of it:
- Be present with my family, giving them the best part of me
- Live in harmony with nature
- Bond with a community around my family, with deep, meaninful relationships
- Have lots and lots of fun
- Always be learning new things

The goal of living simply, when put in this perspective, starts to make more sense. I could get rid of all the things I own, except for what fits in a backpack. That might give me more opportunities for fun & learning, as I travel & meet people that I can form deep relationships with. It could easily enable me to live in harmony with nature, if I consume very few resources. However, it would interfere with the first item, as my family would like the comfort of a house with a kitchen, etc. I would also miss out on the fun of writing software, reading Wikipedia, playing Half-Life 2, and internet porn.

For now, I am keeping the basic things the same - I have a family, I own a house, I own a car (2 actually!), I work a regular job, I have computers and a TV. But around that I have gotten rid of tons of stuff. There's still a lot more to do, so I'll try to keep writing....

Monday, September 11, 2006

So much milk; let's make cottage cheese

Due to some changes in how I get my raw milk, I have suddenly found
myself with a surplus. Usually I get 3 gallons / week for my family,
and that's about how much we consume. But 2 weeks ago I got 4
gallons, and last week, got 4 gallons again. Then yesterday another
gallon found its way to me. That's a lot of milk!

2 of the gallons had been sitting in a cooler with ice & ice packs for
4 days, but the ice had all melted, so this milk wasn't going to stay
fresh for long. So I decided to make some cheese.

I started by making a gallon in to cottage cheese, as it's something
the twins like to eat. There are many ways to make it, but I used a
simple recipe that takes rennet this time:

0 skim the cream off 1 gallon of milk
1 warm milk to 80 degrees F.
2 mix 1/4 tsp liquid rennet with 1/4 c cool water
3 stir the milk while pouring in the rennet
4 raise the temperature to 110 over 20 minutes; curds will form
I think I let it sit like this for 15 minutes, but I can't remember
5 cut the curd
6 let the curd sit another 15 minutes, as it will release whey after being cut
7 pull out curds with your hands, cut them in to smaller bits, and let
them drain in a strainer
8 when done draining, break the curds in to small pieces
9 stir some of the cream back in

It was good, but not as good as the best cottage cheese I've had. I
think I warmed the curd up too quickly, which makes it form a tougher,
chewier curd, which is suitable for making an aged, hard cheese. I
also think I added too much cream back in, as the curds tasted quite
good by themselves.

I expect to have extra milk on a regular basis, so I want to get in to
a rhythm of making something like this every Sunday.

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