February 16, 2019


What in the world is domiati? It's an Egyptian brined cheese.

Also called "white cheese," it originated in the Mediterranean area where mountain caves don't exist. This is notable because most cheeses we're familiar with (cheddar, colby, Swiss, etc.) require curing in relatively cool temperatures, like those found in caves. Cheeses made in the warm Mediterranean climate must be cured and stored another way, usually brine. Feta, which is a Greek cheese, is a familiar example.

I have the same problem, i.e., a warm humid climate during cheese making season, and no (artificial) cheese cave. Hence I've been experimenting with cheeses that don't require environmentally controlled curing (see my blog post "Cheesemaking Challenges in a Hot Climate.") The suggestion to try domiati came from Toirdhealbheach Beucail, who blogs at The Forty-Five (thanks TB!)

There isn't a recipe for domiati in Ricki Carroll's Home Cheese Making (a book that I don't use), nor in David Asher's The Art of Natural Cheesemaking (a book that I use a lot). So it took a bit of searching around the internet to find recipes. As with other cheeses, proportions and directions vary a bit, but the basic method is the same for all of them. All recipes had the unique step of adding the salt to the milk first, rather than to the curds last.


The Cheese

2 gallons milk (I use raw goat milk)
1/2 cup kefir (could use plain yogurt or cultured buttermilk)
2 regular doses rennet (I use powdered, so for me that's 1/16 tsp dissolved)
3 tablespoons coarse salt (other recipes call for more)

Mix salt in 1 and 1/2 gallons of the milk. Heat the remaining milk to 170°F (76°C) and add to the salted milk. When milk temp is 105°F (40°C) stir in kefir. [Memory jog: that's what the recipe called for, I cooled it to 90°F (32°C).] Add dissolved rennet and mix thoroughly. Cover, keep in a warm place, and let stand 3 hours or until coagulated. Pour off whey and let drain for several hours. Save the whey. Place the cheese in a mold and let it continue to drain until dry (6 hours or so). Then place in ceramic crock, cover with brine (recipe below), cover, weight if necessary (I use a saucer), and store for several months to age.

The Brine

1 quart warm whey
1/4 cup canning salt (or cheese salt)

Dissolve the salt in the whey. If more brine is needed you can make a whole or half-batch using the same proportions of whey to salt. Submerging the cheese is important because any part not covered with brine will spoil.

Check the cheese periodically and top off with more brine as necessary.

I'm going to note here that I stored my crock in the refrigerator. I don't know if that's the tradition in Egypt (where average summer temps are about the same as my non-air conditioned pantry), but I didn't have the nerve to try it on a pantry shelf. Dan and I liked the cheese, so I think this summer I'll do an experimental one and age in the pantry. We'll see how well the brine does then!

We cut into ours four months after I made it. I was surprised that it wasn't saltier, like my feta is. On the other hand, I cut my feta into slices for brining, so there's more surface area to absorb salt.  The domiati was just right.

It's a soft cheese, melts well, and is very tasty. Best of all I didn't have to wax it nor cure in a cheese cave! Conclusion? This one's a keeper.

Domiati © February 2019 by Leigh

February 13, 2019


Something I've eyed in seed catalogues over the years are mushroom kits. We love mushrooms, but the price for kit always held me back. Sow True Seed, however, sells both kits and plugs. The price of plugs is reasonable, and since we already have all the things we need to plant them, this was a good way to go. I bought two kinds - shiitake and white oyster.

Shiitake and white oyster mushroom plugs, 100 of each.

The plugs are set into live logs, so we scheduled our planting session for February. This is the month Dan designated for a job on our pasture improvement goals - trim low branches overhanging the edges of the pasture.

We invested in a pole saw for this job. Much safer
than climbing a ladder with a large chain saw!

That raised the canopy along the pasture fence line, plus gave us the logs we needed for the mushrooms! According to the excellent instructions provided with the plugs, white oak is recommended as the best. That's exactly what needed to be trimmed back.

Oak limbs in 4-foot sections.

Holes for the plugs are drilled 1 & 1/4 inch deep with a 5/16-inch drill bit. They are spaced six to eight inches apart in rows three to four inches apart.

The plugs are inch-long pieces of dowel that have been scored and inoculated with mushroom spawn.

They are pounded into the drilled holes.

And then coated with beeswax.

I set up a hotplate in the milking room for waxing the plugs.

I marked the ends of the logs with either an "O" for white oyster or an "S" for Shiitaki. The mushrooms themselves look very different so in some ways it shouldn't matter. But you never know.

The instructions said that logs cut more than seven to ten days previously would need to be soaked for 12 to 24 hours. We skipped that step because ours were still freshcut and green.

I waxed the cut ends of the logs and then stacked them behind the goat barn next to the big rain catchment tank. That spot remains in shade all day and will be easy to water if needed.

Now we wait! I read it can take up to a year for a first harvest.

Have you tried to grow mushrooms? How did it go?

Mushrooms © Feb. 2019 by Leigh

February 10, 2019

Carport Repair: Center Beam for Roof Support

While the new piers were curing, Dan got started on the next thing he had in  mind, a center beam for added roof support.

For the most part, the bones of the carport roof were in pretty good shape. The rafter ends on the windward side needed some attention, but the rest of it was still good. The builder, however, spanned too great a distance for Dan's liking. And since we were going to top the building with new metal roofing panels, it seemed a good idea to add another post for extra ceiling support.

For the post, he chose a beautiful cedar log.

We don't have a lot of cedars so we don't like to cut them down. This one, however, was the casualty of one of our recent storms. Dan found it lying on top of this pile of trees which wasn't there before!

Before the post could go up, however, a new ceiling beam was added down the lengthwise center of the carport.

This one was milled from one of our downed pine trees.

They were pegged together with a dowel, which was cut flush with the beam.

The base was next.

Two cap blocks with a rebar rod in the center. Dan drilled a hole in the bottom of the post to fit over it.

Then knee braces.

As you can see, the top of the post covers the beam joint and peg.

The old-fashioned name for the pegs is "trunnels," which comes from a slurring of "treenails."

How's that for rustic?

We've been discussing multiple uses for this space and this new post is helping me visualize it.

I can see a small table and two chairs in the front, and a small outdoor cooking area along the outside wall on the right: grill, smoker, and ??? Oven? The possibilities are slowly coming together.

February 8, 2019

Treadle Sewing Machine Progress

Just a quick note to anyone who's interested: I've moved posting about my new treadle sewing machine over to my Fiber Journal. Just click on that link to see what I've done with it.

February 2, 2019

Carport Repair: New Piers

Thanks to Violet and Jessie, it's been a while since I've given you an update on Dan's carport repair project, but he's been making steady progress. Last time I showed you how he replaced the old posts that held up the carport roof. After that, he started on an idea we'd discussed - adding an extension.

An extension will add firewood storage space and help stabilize the structure.

The first step involved making piers for the roof support posts that would be required. The forecast was for very cold temps, so he wanted to get his concrete work done while the days were still fairly mild.

First step: dig holes large enough for two cap blocks.

Step two: mix small amounts of concrete.

Step three: cement ready-made piers to the cap blocks.

Then they were left to cure. Every time it rained the holes flooded but that hasn't bothered the concrete. Several days later Dan filled in the holes.

They are supposed to be allowed to sit for at least a couple of weeks. In the meantime, Dan turned his attention to beefing up the existing roof in preparation for the metal roofing panels. More on that soon.

 Carport Repair: New Piers © January 2019