Archive for November 9th, 2010

The Best Kosher Cheese…

Sharon November 9th, 2010

…Is the one that you make yourself.  One of the great problems of keeping kosher is finding decent kosher cheese.  Technically speaking, I don’t have to do this - I’m a Conservative Jew, rather than an Orthodox one, and the Conservatives have long treated rennet as far enough from its origins not to worry about.  But it bothers me, and I have friends who won’t eat cheese made using animal rennets, so I have tried to mostly serve kosher cheeses.  The problem is that kosher certification is extremely expensive, which means most small artisanal cheesemakers won’t bother, which means one finds oneself back at bigger cheesemakers from far away.

Thus my quest for really good Kosher cheeses - real Camembert, blue cheeses that can knock your socks off - and I’ve tried a lot of recipes.  I’m starting to feel like I can produce something worth having - and entirely kosher.

Unfortunately, the barriers to starting up a dairy in New York are so great that there’s no way I’ll ever be able to sell it.  On the other hand, if you too seek really good kosher cheese, I can sell you a couple of dairy goats and point you to some nice videos on the subject!

Making Blue Cheese

The Anyway Project: Down to Brass Tacks

Sharon November 9th, 2010

First of all, in response to reader suggestion, I’ve changed the names of the categories. People rightly felt “domestic economy” and “household economy” were too confusing, and reader Apple Jack Creek suggested we change “domestic economy” to “domestic infrastructure.” Claire also suggested that “Farm and Subsistence” was too specific to my case, and that we should just go to “Subsistence” there. I don’t think I quite agree, although I am taking the word “farm” out since not everyone has one, and replacing it with “cottage industry.” Not everyone will have a cottage economy emerge from their activities here, but I do I hope that some people will, and want a way of differentiating between purely subsistence activities and those that generate income in the form of barter, community currency or plain old money.

The new categories for the Anyway Project are:

Domestic Infrastructure - these are the realities of home life, including making your home work better with less, getting organized, dealing with domestic life, etc…

Household Economy: Financial goals, making ends meet, saving, barter etc…

Resource Consumption : in which we use less of stuff, and strive to live in a way that has an actual future.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence:: The things we do that prevent us from needing to buy things, and the things we produce that go out into the world and provide for others. Not everyone will do both, but it is worth encouraging.

Family and Community: Pretty much what it sounds like. How do we enable those to take the place of collapsing infrastructure?

Outside Work: Finding a balance, doing good work, serving the larger community as much as we can, within our need to make a living.

Time and Happiness: Those things without which there’s really no point.

So what am I trying to do in the course of November? What should you try and do in the near term? My goal is to set one or two goals in each category for each month (I’ll do this by the first each month) and go forward. Since I’m getting us started late this month, I’ll try not to overreach. Ok, that’s probably not realistic ;-) .

Domestic Infrastructure: My goals are finish moving the food storage out of the walk-in closet it has badly overflowed and into the spare guest room, where now people will have the pleasure of sleeping surrounded by jars and buckets (this, however, is one of a couple of guest rooms. I’m also moving around the space my office is in, but can’t really finish that until I get a door for said office. So my goal is to put the door on and move the furniture. Beyond that, I hope to get the firewood stacked and some of it moved into the house and get some more garden beds built before winter. That’s probably as much as I can accomplish (and maybe more). If I have time, however, I did make a list of 25 free or cheap projects I could do to improve our quality of life that I’d like to take a stab at.

Household economy: We have several times in the past tracked our expenses, but haven’t done it in a couple of years. So go back to tracking every penny we spend. I think realistically, the most I can hope for this month is to figure out where all the money goes (we know basically but I’d like a closer analysis) and make a plan for shifting our expenses starting next month.

Resource Consumption: This we’ve been tracking all along, so I pretty much know where the problems are. My goal is to drop our electrical usage by 5% over our present use, something I’m sure I can accomplish simply by staying off the computer a little more and by the normal shift to cookstove cooking away from our stove. The major problem will be our mileage - they’ve crept up with kid activities and my travel, and they aren’t immediately fixable, although they will go down after next month, since I won’t be travelling as much. So figuring out where we can cut there is the next project.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence: I need to find out if I can get an inspection that will allow me to produce small scale jams and other food from our spare apartment kitchen - there are permits for this in NY, but I am not sure if we’ll qualify. In the meantime, lots and lots of farm planning for the spring, and garden planning in general. I want to reduce our input costs and increase our outputs - some boring tax research is also required. My goal is to have a plan set out for the farm by the end of the month - a month by month schedule of what we’re producing and what I need to do to accomplish that.

Family and Community: Eric and I are committed to trying to be part of two more outside our home events every month than we had been doing - evening events are tough for us, with almost no babysitting and the fact that we’re usually really tired by the end of the day. But the fact is, human relationships happen at night, so we’re trying bring some new folks to the farm and also go out more. Oddly, this seems like the most overwhelming one - I can handle my finances or declutter my house, but when it comes to actually getting organized to do something at 8pm, I find myself struggling!

Outside Work: I have several times tried to get my outside workload down by insisting I work and check emal only 3 days a week. In principle, this seems doable. In practice, I’ve never pulled it off - but if I’m to accomplish as much as I want to, I can’t do it in front of the computer all the time. I’ve been trying to help get my ASPO commitment stabilized with more hands to do the work, and that seems like it is settling down. My biggest, perhaps most difficult to achieve goal is this - that I will work at the computer *only* on Monday mornings, and all day Tuesdays and Thursdays - and that includes everything I do online - on all other days, the computer will stay *off.* I’m hoping to pull this off by December 1 - and stick to the commitment.

Time and Happiness: I think honestly, accomplishing the above will get me both. I’ll let you know how I do.

So what are your plans and goals? You can post them here or link to your blog and we can talk about it. Let us know what you are struggling with, and what you’ve accomplished. Spread the word - get a lot of people involved. It should be fun - and we can all use a little support!

And the badges, btw, are coming!