Preparing Fresh Milk

Israel (where, until recently, I spent most of my adult life) has a reputation for “optimizing cows” – blend of methods and technologies that cause cows to produce industrial (economically effective) amounts of milk – way more then they would naturally. Much of this is supposedly (I haven’t corroborated this) achieved through hormones and I am guessing some genetic engineering. I didn’t (and still don’t) want those intentions and chemicals coursing through me so I mostly stayed away from milk products and consumed soy-milk instead (even when my Yoga teacher suggested I add more milk to my diet).

Here in Romania the milk is so much better – even the industrialized milk tastes and feels better. But there is nothing like milk from the market – it is fresh, rich, tasty and alive. It does however require a bit more attention and preparation. So here’s what I’ve been able to gather so far.

Milk

It is sold in everyday plastic bottles and the first thing you need to do filter and boil it.

We filtered the milk the first couple of times we bought it and found that it was very clean – so now we skip that part and skip directly to the boiling. We spread some butter on the bottom of pot to prevent the milk from sticking and burning (though we are still playing around with this – Andreea has a hunch that the butter may be causing the milk to spoil sooner).

We pour in all the milk and leave it on a medium sized flame.

When it boils a fatty layer forms on top (this is the fat that is used to make butter and what you see are just the leftovers since most of the fat has already been removed to make cream and butter).

Soon after it will begin to rise and that’s when you need to turn off the flame and let it cool.

After it cools you can easily scoop out a substantial top layer of fat (which is really just a residue of what was originally there).

After it has cooled we filter (there’s still some fat floating around in it) it into glass bottles. We’ve been told that all milk products are better kept in glass containers instead of plastic ones. It keeps in the fridge for 5 or 6 days at best!

And even after all the removal, scopping and filtering of fat – there is still enough there to form a natural cork in the neck of the bottle.

Yogurt

We also make Yogurt from the fresh milk. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Mix an equal quantity of unboiled milk with boiled milk. The unboiled mix carries in it the bacteria which transforms the milk in Yogurt.
  2. Add a spoon of cream (though yogurt will probably work too) to the boiled milk and in this way introduce the bacteria which transforms the milk.

We’ve tried both. The 1st option resulted in a Yogurt that was slightly more sour and less to my liking. So we placed a spoon of cream in a 1 liter jar and mixed it together with fresh boiled milk. The jar needs to be left open and covered with a cloth.

… and after 24 hours you get Yogurt. It’s that simple (with real milk)!

Other Power + Costs

I came across this really useful website on alternative energy. It looks like it’s been gathering dust  and it’s design is somewhat outdated but it’s information seems timeless. Whether you want to go about doing it yourself or to use commercial solutions – their website is a great resource of information – check out Other Power.

Through their website I found two other useful links:

  • One is the US Department of Energy – though the information is presented a USA context – some of it is global and useful. Specifically I found the area on eletrciticy to have useful overview explanations of eletricity generating systems and their components.
  • The other is Bergey – a manufaturer of products and systems. Specifically their Packages pages provides tangible understanding of (a) the potentially high costs of commercial systems and (b) the relative costs of components that are needed to put together an entire working system.

Here is an example of a system that delivers: 400 – 1,500 Kilowatt-hours (kWh’s) per month (depending on wind resource), 24 hours to over a week of back-up power (depending on load and wind).

7.5 kW BWC Excel-R/48 w/VCS-10 $26,870
100ft. guyded latice tower kit $14,145
Tower wiring kit $1,615
DC Power Center, 9 circuit $850
84 kWh, 5 String, Battery Bank $15,000
7.2 kW Inverter system $6,676
Total costs $65,156

The most expensive elements are the turbine itself, the tower and the batteries. The price of the batteries was informative to me because they are needed regardless of how you generate electricity (wind, solar, hydro… ).

We Are Grazing (alot)

If you happen to be visiting this blog these days you may find it to be a but … confusing? unclear? There are two things we can offer you to introduce some clarity.

The first is that you read our About page – that may give you a picture about where we want to go and what Bhudeva has to do with it.

The second is to understand that we are doing a lot of waiting grazing – it’s a great word/idea/inspiration I picked up when I was working as a photographer with improvisers. It draws inspiration from cows – they just do what they do (and they do it almost all day long) … and it works. In improvisation Grazing describes a state in which you are already in performance and yet you feel as if you have nothing to offer. When that happens and you realize that you are grazing for material then the grazing itself becomes the material. It can alleviate tensions that comes from thoughts like “I have nothing to do but I need to do something” and almost instantly transforms you into a space of doing … the doing of grazing.

We are currently in an apartment in Cluj and we have this encompassing vision of where we want to go and we aren’t sure how to get there. The most actionable task in the Bhudeva context is finding some land and a house in our vicinity. We are in the process of doing that but it isn’t very interesting and worth noting (yet!). So the rest of the time we are grazing, imagining that we are in our house and asking ourself what next? What you currently see on the website is an echo of that process. We are getting flashes of images of our house, making our own yogurt, baking our own bread, exploring ecological and sustainable building and agriculture … we are passionately pursuing whatever arises from our grazing.

On the face of it, it may not make much sense at this point, but under the surface it’s brewing ever so gently into what we believe will fill the rest of our lives. So stick around … with all this grazing we are bound to start squirting some delicious milk 🙂

BedZED Community

My recent hemp-harvesting information tour through the internet brough me to BioRegional. I don’t yet have a clear picture of what they do or who they do it for, but as I was going through their website I came across one of their projects nicely described in this video:

I loved the separate garbage bins integrated into the kitchen design (though I love even more the potential of no garbage in a village home)… and though I don’t know what they do – the colorful ventilation thingies are interesting and beautiful.

Information on Harvesting Hemp – Part 1

Inspiration

I am currently living with an inspiring notion that we will (1) be able to grow the hemp needed to build our future home and (2) that we will have enough land to grow a houses-worth of hemp every year so that someone else will be able to do the same.

Introduction

Though I have to say that the more I explore the world of Hemp the more doubts about this being a feasible goal. At the end of this post you will find some links and PDF’s I read and that led to my current understanding.

Hemp seems to be a relatively easy crop to grow. It’s strong, it doesn’t require pesticides, it grows pretty fast (~4 months) and it even renews the land in which it is grown. The more substantial challenge is harvesting and processing it.

Three Parts of Hemp

There are three parts to the hemp plant – each with it’s own uses:

  1. The seeds can be used for all kinds of food products, oils and other medicinal by-products.
  2. The fibers have all kinds of industrial uses (from clothes to cars) – they are the middle layers of the stalk covered by a thin protective layer.
  3. The hurd – the wooden core that is left over after the fibers have been extracted – which is the part popularly used (together with lime) for construction (although I have come across information that indicates that it is possible to use the fibers and curd together for construction – which means that they don’t need to be separated).

Some Hemp Harvesting Facts

  1. Seeds and stalk don’t mature together – they are (or at least should be) harvested at different times. Both the seeds and the fibers have (different) optimal times for harvesting – beyond which both lose some of the potency and qualities.
  2. The seeds don’t mature all at once – they tend to mature in two cycles. Harvesting time is when you think you can harvest the most mature crop (when some of the seeds may have decayed or lost their potency and others still not quite matured).
  3. Hemp is a tough plant – so you need resilient and strong harvesting tools. The strength of the fiber means it’s hard to cut down and the length of the stalk means it will catch on to and jam any moving part it finds (for example – combine machinery) – which means that you either need powerful harvesting machines – or that harvesting may be slow and tedious.
  4. Hemp is a tall plant (much taller then wheat or barley) – which means you need harvesting equipment that can reach up high.
  5. When the stalk is cut, it is useful to do it in such a way that it is then easy to collect into bales – if I understood correctly what this means is that the harvester needs to leave the cut stalks uniformly oriented on the ground.
  6. The stalks should be cut as long as possible – long fibers are generally better and more useful then shorter ones.
  7. It is possible to harvest both seed and stalk. Seeds go first (duh!) – but then you not only need tall harvesting equipment but it also needs to be sharp and fast spinning – so that the stalk is cut cleanly – leaving long fibers in tact.
  8. The primary processing for seeds is removing them from their shells – I still don’t have information on how that is done.
  9. The primary processing for stalk is separating the fibers from the wooden sheathe (this is called “decortication”- whichI am guessing comes from the idea of removing the core and, apparently, originates from a medical surgical process of separation). There are numerous methods for this – but generally they seem to be divided in two: industrial processes and organic/natural processes. I am less interested in the industrial aspect so I focused a bit more on the natural processes. Apparently the idea is to use water to cause decomposition of a kind of “glue” that keeps the fiber and curd attached. Usually natural dampness like dew will do the trick. You need to keep an eye out on the crop until separation begins – then you need to let it dry for a few days. I am not yet clear on all the details of this process.

All these facts seem to eminate from an industrial/financial view point. They are focused on creating optimal yields and financial returns. If harvesting and processing hemp can only be done using heavy and expensive machinery – that means that growing just a few acres or a hectare of hemp isn’t feasible.  I was somewhat discouraged by this. But …

Since hemp has been grown for hundreds of years (if not thousands) I am sure there is much knowledge on how to do it on a smaller scale – for home needs but I haven’t been able to find any information on this yet. It may require more manual labour but I am confident it is possible. Our needs are humble – maybe to build another small structure for meditation, enough seeds for eating, making oils … the needs of a small family.

I’ll continue to look for more home-oriented information on this – I promise to share it here when I do find it.

Resources and Further Reading

Links:

PDF’s:

Advantages – Hemp in Timisoara

Andreea came across Advantages a local manufacturer of hemp products. There isn’t too much information about them online – but we will be contacting them to see if they know something about building with hemp.

Do It Yourself Windows

I found this inspiring post on do-it-yourself windows – I found it inspiring because it shows how far you can get on your own with only basic carpentry skills. The price from a professional craftsman was $5500 but in the end they were built in 4 days using $540 worth of materials!

Though I am wondering though if (1) this approach can be scaled up to a larger home and (2) if, with a reasonable investment in time and materials, it is possible to create longer-lasting and energy-efficient windows?